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December 2016

posted Dec 1, 2016, 8:43 AM by Christine Rice

Dear People of God,      

             In the church year, the month of December is the season of Advent merging into Christmas. The new church year actually began November 27th with the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means, “The coming: the arrival”. Of course we get ready to celebrate the birthday party of our Savior Jesus at Christmas: the incarnation, the enfleshment of God’s own Son for us. This is Christ’s first advent: his soft and sweet coming to us as a human baby: the miracle of Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”

            However, our Gospel readings in Advent actually focus more on Christ’s second coming at the end of time. We cannot know when this will  happen. But we are called to watch and prepare. The voice of John the Baptist calls us to “Prepare the way of our Lord, make his paths straight.” Matt 3:3. So the season of Advent calls us to repent and to prepare our hearts and minds to welcome Jesus. We are in the year of Matthew now. That is, most of our Gospel readings will be from Matthew this church year.  And Matthew would remind us that we welcome Jesus when we welcome the least of these, his brothers and sisters. “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?...And the king will answer then, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” Matt 25:37-40. This is Christ’s present and constant Advent with us now in Christian community and as we care for our neighbors in need.

            I’m always drawn to the prayers of the day during the Advent season. Some call these “the stir up prayers,” since they all begin with “Stir up.”

            Advent 1 (November 27). Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way or your salvation…

            Advent 2 (December 4). Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace…

            Advent 3 (December 11). Stir up the will of all who look to you, Lord God, and strengthen our faith in your coming, that, transformed by grace, we may walk in your way…

            Advent 4 (December 18). Stir up your power, Lord Christ and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that hinders our faith, that eagerly we may receive your promises…

            I try not to hum Christmas carols until December, but this Calypso carol keeps running through my little brain ever since I sang it with the youth one Wednesday.  “Long time ago in Bethlehem, so the Holy Bible say, Mary’s boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day. Trumpets sound and angels sing. Listen to what they say, that we will live for evermore, because of Christmas Day.”

            Stir up our hearts and minds and hands and feet, Lord Jesus. Prepare us to welcome you again and again, as we welcome our neighbors in need and care for one another.

            A Blessed Advent and Christmas to you all, Pastor Dennis

 

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