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Advent 2017

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  (JOHN 1:14)
 
Dear Friends:
 

Advent is the season of anticipation. In Advent we anticipate the coming of God as a baby in Bethlehem, the coming of God as the Holy Spirit to all believers, and the coming of God at the end of time with the return of Jesus. In Advent we move from the angel Gabriel’s words to Mary:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God  (Luke 1:35).

to the profound insight of John who, looking back at incarnation of Jesus, declared:

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth  (John 1:14).

Advent is the season we step back from the ordinary flow of life and take time to contemplate the unfolding mystery of God’s presence with us. It was Mary who first pondered the words of the angels and the shepherds and kept them in her heart. It was not until she stood at the foot of the cross and then heard the news of her son’s resurrection that it all made sense. William Butler Yeats’s poem, The Mother of God, captures the image from a renaissance fresco of the Holy Spirit piercing the ear of Mary with the Word that enters the womb of Mary.

The Mother of God
By William Butler Yeats 

The threefold terror of love; a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear, 
Wings beating about the room;
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.
Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart’s blood stop
Or strikes a Sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up? 

What is this thing that God has done in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus that wins our salvation and brings about the healing of heaven and earth? During each week of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we shall hear the different perspectives of the Bible stories that tell of the unfolding mystery of the incarnation of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God. Ponder these things….

Yours in Christ,
Lewis F. Galloway, Senior Pastor
 

The Mystery of Time
Sunday, December 3
The First Sunday of Advent

The Mystery of Time

DECEMBER 3, THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2017

By Rev. Josh Stanley

Mark 13:24-37

Breathe in. And slowly breathe out.

Time. We cannot grasp it or see it. We mark it only by the spinning dance of our planet and the perpetual turning of a hand around the clock face, yet our lives are ruled by time.

We try to hold onto it and bend it to our will. Seeking to structure time to fit our busy lives, we fight against it in a desire to always have just a bit more, so that we can accomplish the day’s deeds. Yet often in this season, the current of time sweeps us away.

Yet there is something greater, a deeper time, which the Franciscan Monk Father Richard Rohr borrowing from the Medieval church, calls the “eternal now, where time comes to a fullness, and we are connected.” This is the space that we occupy, yet it is so often overlooked in the backwards glance of those things we failed to get done and in the forward gaze of all the things that yet need doing. We can easily forget to simply be in this season of our faith.

For Advent is this eternal now, the already and not yet. Where a way has been prepared for the Lord through the wilderness in anticipation of his birth, yet we still patiently anticipate his return to our world. Every year, we grow more distant from that night where the ordinary of our world was shattered through the birth of a child, yet we are timelessly connected through the Spirit to that eternal now where love swelled in this world and still continues to fill our hearts.

So haste and hurriedness need not rule our lives as we navigate this season. Let the faithful assurance of love wash over you, knowing that the way has been prepared, Christ will be born, and Christ will come again. Seek to be fully present in this eternal now, feeling your faith connected back to when God choose to live as one of us, yet also reaching forward to the fullness of time.

Strive to acknowledge time for the gift that it is, finding a moment of peace for yourself and one to share with all those you love. For when we free ourselves of the anxiety of trying to grab hold and control time, instead seeking to just be in this eternal now, we often find that we have more of it than we knew.

This is the mystery of time.

Breathe in. And slowly breathe out.


Mystery Shatters the Ordinary
Sunday, December 10
The Second Sunday of Advent

Mystery Shatters the Ordinary

DECEMBER 10, THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2017

By Rev. Anna Owens

Isaiah 40:1-11 & Mark 1:1-8

“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:4-5

Peppermint. Gingerbread. Cloves and spices. These captivating aromas of a sentimental season beckon to us to remember the wonder of Christmas: time with family, gifts and celebration and new beginnings in the depth of winter. Christmastide has a romantic feel to it. Even now I can hear Frank Sinatra crooning, “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love, every song you hear seems to say, ‘Merry Christmas…’”

Except sometimes it isn’t really that way, is it? School breaks begin later and later, teenagers have exams three days before Christmas, and the pressure to get the latest toy at the greatest bargain can take all the joy right out of the air. This season is supposed to feel special – to feel different – but instead we cycle through the same tired, ordinary, frantic practices year after year after year.

And yet, in the midst of this busy, harried, ever-commercialized time, God speaks. We may not be able to hear the promise of God’s advent through the bells and the carols and the slamming of car doors on the way to Costco and the neighborhood party and the Christmas Eve service. In the midst of the ordinary routines of this season, the words of the prophet Isaiah ring as important as ever: God will bring all things together, make level ground out of an uneven world, uneven systems, an uneven society. God’s glory will be revealed for all people, because God has said so. This extraordinary promise shatters all that we have made ordinary. This promise is fulfilled in the Incarnation – God’s fully human, fully divine presence made flesh. God, taking on human form so that all might finally believe in the love, hope, peace and joy offered through a life lived in God’s abundant grace.

May you take some time this week to appreciate God’s earth-shattering presence in the routines of your life. May you see the world differently because of the great mystery of our faith: Christ is coming and Christ has come and the world is forever changed by this in-breaking of light into great darkness. May this indeed be the time of year when the world falls in love with kindness, generosity, and the hope of that which is to come.


The Mystery Made Known
Sunday, December 17
The Third Sunday of Advent

The Mystery Made Known

DECEMBER 17, THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2017

Rev. Meagan Findeiss

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 & Luke 1:39-56

It is hard to describe what it feels like to have a child inside you move around. I remember when I was pregnant, and my daughter would kick me or slide her elbow from my right side all the way across my belly to the left. It was a startling feeling. I would forget sometimes that I was pregnant and then the movement of the baby would bring me back into the reality that I was carrying with my being the life of another.

When the movements began to happen I would tell my husband and try to explain what it felt like. But it was hard to put into words. It was a mysterious experience. It made you stop and concentrate in a unique and humbling way on what was happening. I would imagine the baby, and the movements she was making in order to consciously understand. Though, that still was shrouded in mystery.

In the Gospel of Luke, when Elizabeth told Mary that her child leaped inside her, the movement was beyond startling for Elizabeth. Not only was she moved into action, but she was also filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth was overcome, and it was her soul that declared praise. In the Isaiah passage it reads, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God.”

Motherhood isn’t a universal experience, but the truth of Mary and Elizabeth’s faith speaks to everyone. It is through story that one can imagine what those movements might feel like.

In this Advent season, my hope is that we all feel the movement of the Holy Spirit inside of us. That we allow ourselves to be humbled, and let the life of Jesus Christ bring us to our feet in a startling way.

As Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” For it is with our whole being that we shall exult praise to our Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Ghost. May we live our lives in such a way that our souls continually illustrate the magnificence of our God, Emmanuel.


The Mystery of the Word Made Flesh
Sunday, December 24
The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Mystery of the Word Made Flesh

DECEMBER 24, THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2017

By Rev. Owen Gray

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16Luke 1:26-38

In the beginning—way back in Genesis 1—we meet a very great God, who is capable of incomprehensible acts of creative wonder. A God from whom every thing has its roots; a God whose image is made known in humanity. This God is unlimited, gracious, and guides the world’s happenings for generations. And yet, in 2 Samuel 7, that same God declares that the great I AM desires… a studio apartment by the river.

That last part is facetious, of course, but it should not be lost on us—God’s created—how remarkable it is that God would want to dwell on Earth. After all, there’s no shortage of scripture describing Earth as profane, broken, and disloyal to the bone. Yet God decides to dwell among the people of Israel in order that they might worship more fully and live more righteously. It tells us something about God’s very nature.

Even more inconceivable is what we learn in the opening chapter of Luke. God will not only be living among us, God will become one of us, incarnated, enfleshed. Jesus will experience the depths of human suffering. For what purpose? So that we might know God’s love. It’s a radical decision that changed everything.

As Advent ends, we as Christians celebrate the end of our waiting: God is here! But part of the nature of this season is the mystery of the Incarnation. In order to show deepest love towards God’s creation, that same God became like us. He is unfamiliar in perfection and sinlessness, yet entirely familiar in his joy, sadness, excitement, and much more.

What can we learn from that mystery? How does it shape our lives? We ponder these things as we gather, together, before the manger to witness our Creator God in the most humble and unexpected form. Baby Jesus, laying in a manger. Come, friends, let us adore him.


Baby Jesus presented at the Temple
Sunday, December 31
The First Sunday After Christmas

The Mystery of the Word Made Flesh

DECEMBER 31, THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness,
and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

Minnie Haskins (1875-1957)


Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[h] in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  Luke 2:28-32


Epiphany
Sunday, January 7
The Baptism of the Lord

Epiphany

SUNDAY, JANUARY 7, THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD

John R. Franke, DPhil. Theologian in Residence

The word “Epiphany” comes from Greek and in that context means “manifestation.” The Christian season of Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ to the world during the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. This manifestation is both the culmination of the unfolding mystery foretold by the prophets of Israel and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God proclaimed in the Gospels.

Many Protestant churches observe the season of Epiphany from January 6 until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. During this time it is traditional to give thanks for the revelation of God in Jesus Christ so many years ago and to celebrate his work of proclaiming and teaching the Kingdom of God, a world where everyone has enough and no one needs to be afraid.

On the cross, Jesus declared that his reconciling work was finished. Strikingly, he had prepared his follows for his departure by telling them that those who believed in him would not only do the works that he did, but that they would do even greater things (John 14:12). Later in John’s Gospel, after the resurrection, Jesus commissions his followers with these words from John 20:21: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Think about these words for a moment in conjunction with Epiphany. Jesus is passing on to his disciples the task of continuing to manifest the Kingdom of God in the world.

This means that the followers of Jesus are entrusted with the task of continuing Epiphany, of making the vision of the Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus ever more manifest in the midst of the world. During this season of Epiphany, let us give thanks for the coming of Jesus and also remember our responsibility to continue his work as the unfolding mystery of the Kingdom of God, fulfilled and inaugurated in the life of Jesus, continues among us for the sake of the world.