Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Allan B. Warren III at the Church of the Advent, Christmas Day 2018

From Psalm 42:

Deep calleth out to deep.

                     Abyssus abyssum invocat.

The Book of Psalms was put together about twenty-five hundred years ago.  Contained within it are songs and poems, some of which are nearly three thousand years old.  For many of them it is quite easy to identify the situation which gave rise to the poetry, for the psalm itself tells you.  For instance:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept.

or

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, then were we like
          unto them that dream.

The first: easy.  A lament written during Israel’s exile in Babylon.  The second: no problem.  A shout of joy and praise at her return.  Other psalms, however, are less clear.  The reason behind their writing has been so long forgotten that it is hard even to guess just exactly what they mean.

This, it seems, is not as great a problem in the twenty-first century as it was in the twentieth, when scholars tried hard to figure out what various psalms meant, where they came from, and when they were written.  Nowadays,

“Post-modernism,” whatever that is, has declared that a “text,” whatever that is, can have no intrinsic meaning, so – calm down – why worry.  Stop thinking.

Strangely enough, St. Augustine in the fourth century would have felt somewhat the same way.  A text from the Bible, as Augustine saw it, always had many meanings on many levels.  Often, the literal meaning was the least important.  So if you can’t figure it out – calm down – why worry.  But don’t stop thinking.

One deep calleth another in the noise of the water floods.

St. Augustine and many others who followed him over the centuries had a great deal to say about this line from one of the most beautiful and often-quoted Psalms in the Psalter.  It is obvious that the Psalmist is referring to a waterfall or a cataract – probably the headwaters of the River Jordan, which are quite spectacular  – but this literal meaning is of little interest to Augustine.

One deep calleth to another. 

Augustine sees this on another mystical level as a description of the yearning, of the infinite desire of the human heart for God. 

One deep calleth to another.

The depth within you and me, our created grandeur – made in the image of God – our depth calls out, yearns for, can only be satisfied by the depth of God.  Our small infinity is itself a desire which can only be answered and completed by the large infinity of God.  “Our hearts are restless,” says Augustine as he prays, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Deep calls out to deep.

Desire is the dynamic of human life.  Our depth is a desire for God’s depth .   .   .   .  a desire for the infinite, a desire for the eternal, a desire for that which transcends; a desire for the good, the beautiful, and the true – that which animates and is real.  Desire is built into us.  It is part of our being.  And if there is a problem with desire, it is not that we desire too much, but rather that we desire too little.  Too often we are seduced by things in life which promise satisfaction but can’t deliver it.  You know what I’m talking about: money, power, sex, security, fame, possession – how often are we seduced by these things, and then they fail us.  They offer a taste, perhaps, a glimpse, a hint, an intimation of that which is transcendent and which may fulfill us.  And we fall for them.  And again they fail us, for what is glimpse, when you’re yearning to see?  What is a taste, when you hunger for a meal?  And indeed, to a man dying of thirst in the desert, a single drop of water is a torment.

Deep calls out to deep.

Abyssos abyssum invocat.

But how to find that depth?  How to find the object of desire?  How to locate that which by its very nature transcends our world?  The timeless: can it be in time?  The infinite: where to look?  Is not then the depth within us forever doomed to futility and frustration?  Will our hearts ever find their rest?

No?

Never?

Unless.

Unless.

Unless God comes to us – unless God comes to us – we cannot find Him.  Unless God makes Himself available, we cannot grasp Him.  Unless God translates Himself into terms (human terms) we understand, we cannot know Him.

God created us as a desire and a yearning.  Within us there is a question and there is a quest.  Unless God gives us Himself, there is no answer, there is no goal, there is no rest.

Behold, a virgin shall conceive
and bear a son,
And shall call his name Emmanuel,
God-with-us.
For unto is a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
Wonderful,
Counsellor,
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

This is what we celebrate this day, dear people.  In the manger, in that stable, in an insignificant town, in an insignificant country – there lay the end of desire, there lay the depth of God, the infinite and transcendent – now made man – a Savior and the Sabbath rest of our hearts – newly born, sleeping in the hay.

The Word was made flesh.  Alleluia.  God in His Son Jesus made Himself available to humanity.  We can grasp Him.  God’s depth answered the call and question of our depth, and He came to us.  God translated Himself into human terms.  In Jesus we can understand Him … and … in Jesus we can understand ourselves.  God’s desire for us met the desire within us (which is us) for Him.

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

In that manger, in that stable, in that town, in that country, at that time, lay sleeping in the hay or in His mother’s arms, at her breast, the Infinite High God, come down for all mankind.

And on this day, and at that Altar, He comes to us again: God’s depth.  The object of desire and the yearning of our hearts.

Fall down, good people, and worship Him.

Amen.

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Jay C. James at the Church of the Advent, Christmas Eve 2018 Midnight Mass

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!

Many ask this time of year, “What is the true meaning of Christmas?”  I dare say that some people ask themselves that question throughout their whole lives; not just at this time of year.  If you were to ask enough people what their answer is to the question you would probably get a whole range of answers. Christmas means so many things to so many people.  

There are some who would say that the true meaning of Christmas is helping their fellow man.  Just as Jesus was born into a poor, lowly state, and identified more openly with the poor, so we ought to take the meaning of Christmas to be helping those who, like Jesus, do not have the financial advantages of others. Christmas means giving, especially to the less fortunate.

There are others who may say that Christmas is really about ensuring good will among all peoples.  That since Jesus is the Savior of the World, the true meaning of Christmas is doing all we can to promote and create understanding and acceptance of all people regardless of their race, beliefs, or national origin.  There is a social consciousness grounding to their true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a time to do those things and to follow the example of Christ. Isn’t that something that we should be about all the rest of the year as well?   It is part of our Christian calling.

I would like to offer a definition of the true meaning of Christmas as a love story.  It is a love story about how God loves mankind with the love that will never be matched.  That is the true meaning of Christmas. Everything that happened on this night of Jesus’ birth two thousand eighteen years ago has to do with love.  

This love story on a human level is a love story about a husband and wife.  Joseph loved Mary so much that he would go to any length to protect her and care for her.  Joseph was willing to do all that he could to guard and protect his espoused wife so that she could bring forth the savior.

Christmas is a love story of the love of a mother for her child.  No one loves a child as a mother loves a child. No human has been as devoted to Jesus as his mother.  Mary loved her child Jesus so much that she was willing to face possible death and certain alienation to fulfill her calling as the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Mother of God.  No one would know Jesus better than his Mother Mary.

Christmas’s purpose as a love story can be witnessed in the shepherds’ awe and wonder.  The appearance of the angel and the multitude of angels awakened in them the same sense in all of us to become lost in awe, wonder, love and praise in the presence of God.  They could not wait, but had to run to see and reverence this Jesus at the manger in Bethlehem. The shepherds were told the good news by the angel and they knew the sense of love, wonder and praise that the Christ Child deserved and ran to the manger worship him.   

One can take Christmas as a love story and can be supported in that definition in any one of these scenes.  The greatest revelation of Christmas’s true meaning as a love story is the love of God for all mankind. It is that love that God has for mankind that had Him enter time and space and become a man in the person of Jesus Christ.  As the Bible says, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  To give oneself so completely as to share the very nature of man is truly the highest form of love.  God loved us so much that He was willing to humble himself and become one with us. That is the most amazing love story.  

But then we are talking about the true meaning of Christmas.  Why would God do that? He would do it out of the love, but the true end and purpose is salvation.  Once again, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.  God loved us so much that He came to save us.  He loves us and saves us; there is Christmas’s true meaning.  If we look at all the love in the Christmas story, we will find the true meaning of Christmas.  

God blesses us this night by loving us so much that He came to redeem us.  What better form of giving? What better form of peace and harmony? What better form of love?  

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.  

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Daphne B. Noyes at the Church of the Advent, Christmas Eve 2018 Family Mass

What’s Inside?

Here is the church / Here is the steeple / Open the doors / See all the people! 

This rhyme answers the question “What’s inside?”

And this Christmas eve there are many things to wonder about, to wonder what’s inside.

Maybe before you came into this church tonight, you wondered, what’s inside? Well, now you can see what’s inside: Lots of people. People you know and people you don’t know. And lots of decorations — red and green and white. It looks fancy and it feels special.

And over on one side, in sort of a corner, there’s a creche. What’s inside? Mary and Joseph and — soon — Jesus. In a little while they will be surrounded by lots of presents — clothes and stuffed animals for babies who, just like Jesus, who were born to poor parents.

Tonight we hear the story that tells us what’s inside a dark stable — a barn, really — many years ago. A story that tells us how God decided to come into this world inside human flesh — although God could have come in any number of other ways. But tonight especially we think of Mary’s baby, Jesus.

We sing a song about shepherds, who looked into the night sky, and saw angels, and the angel voices telling them the good news — to go to the stable and see what’s inside. What’s inside the manger. A baby named Jesus.

Do you have a Christmas tree? Are there presents under it? You probably wonder what’s inside!

Let me tell you a story about Christmas when I was a child, pretty long ago. One of my relatives was called ‘Aunt Mab.’ She was old: she was my great-grandfather’s sister. She lived by herself and sometimes I would go with my mother and my grandmother to visit her. Every Christmas, for as far back as I can remember, I got an envelope with my name on it from Aunt Mab. [show envelope]

What was in the envelope? A crisp, new, one-dollar bill. [reveal dollar]

Now when I was very young I didn’t really know what a dollar was, what it was worth. And by the time I was old enough to know what a dollar was and to understand what it was worth, I’m sorry to say that I felt one dollar from Aunt Mab wasn’t worth very much.

Yet Christmas after Christmas after Christmas, envelope after envelope after envelope, the dollar bills came, one at a time. I never had to wonder “what’s inside” because it was always the same. A crisp, new, one-dollar bill.

Now this would be a pretty good story if I could go on to say “And I saved those dollars for many years and eventually I had enough to…..” — to do something exciting, or something generous. Or even something practical.

But I cannot tell that story because it didn’t happen that way. A dollar came and a dollar went, and none of those dollars seemed to make much difference in my life.

I am thinking of Aunt Mab and remembering her tonight because I believe she had a faith that what was inside each envelope would, in some way, make a difference in my life. And I believe that each Christmas putting one dollar in an envelope and writing my name on it made a difference in her life.

Because you see there was a dollar in the envelope, but there was also love. Love that caused her to send a dollar every Christmas, even though I am ashamed to say, I don’t recall ever writing her a thank you note.

Why do I tell this story? Well, first of all, it is a long overdue was of saying thank you to Aunt Mab. And it is a way of reminding each one of us that what’s inside — whether we can see it or not — is important. And sometimes the things we can’t see are more important than the things we can see.

If you have Communion when you come to church, you know that something like this— only smaller— is part of the service. [hold up large wafer] What do we see here? Well, a round bread-y or cracker-y thing, really without much flavor, right?

But if you ask the question, what’s inside? This is the answer: This is special food full of God’s love for you. And when you eat that food, you carry God’s love inside you. And when you carry God’s love inside you, you can share it, bit by bit, piece by piece. Share it with your family, your friends. Share it with people you know and people you don’t know. Share it with the world.

What is inside your heart tonight? Here is what is inside mine: I thank God for sending us Jesus, a baby full of God’s love, to share with the world. Love. That is what’s inside.

Amen.

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Allan B. Warren III at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, December 23, 2018, the Fourth Sunday of Advent

For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is His name.

It is an awful thing to be free, dear brothers and sisters, and most of us find it very hard to bear. Of course, we have no choice, for we were all created by God to create ourselves, to determine ourselves, and therefore to be free. It is the only legitimate mode of human life, for not to be free is not to be human. And yet, it is a frightful burden. It is one we often wish to be rid of. “Tell me what to do, Lord, and make me do it. Show me the way and make me follow it. Take over. Make the decision for me! You, Lord, you live my life.   .   .”

How many times has that been my prayer! How often have I sought the relief of being relieved of my freedom! Take it away – you, God, you choose! That, however, is the one thing which Almighty God cannot do – relieve you of your freedom. And He cannot do it because He will not do it. You and I were made for relationship with God Himself, and relationship is not possible without freedom. That was His design, and God’s desire is that we freely live with Him and freely respond to Him, and freely commune with Him. The terrible burden of freedom is His law for us, and it is our glory. lt is, as well, the only possibility of bliss.

Saint Augustine said many things which I come back to again and again.  One of them is this. “God who made you without your cooperation will not redeem you without your cooperation.” Listen again: “God,” says Augustine, “who made you without your cooperation, will not redeem you without your cooperation.” God created our freedom and He asks us to exercise it. You and I are called to respond and cooperate with Him, and in that free cooperation is our salvation. There is no other way.

*    *    *    *    *

Today, good people, the Sunday before we celebrate that great feast during which we rejoice in the commemoration of God’s incarnation in Jesus, the Church calls us to think about the one through whom He became incarnate, Mary his mother. 

Jesus is God’s new Covenant.  He is, to paraphrase Augustine, God’s “new cooperation” with humankind, and Mary was the first to cooperate.  Mary said, “Yes.”  “Be it unto me according to thy word.”  Her response sets the pattern which will be followed later by her son – “Not my will but thine be done.”  And it is the pattern of every moment in the life of the spirit: God proposes, the Christian soul responds “Yes.”  “Be it unto me according to thy word.”  “God who made you without your cooperation will not redeem you without your cooperation.”  Mary, the Jewish peasant girl, an adolescent, proves St. Augustine to be right.

We know little about her.  She was a daughter of Israel, that nation which both struggled with and yearned for God.  And it very likely that what education she had was in the traditions of her people, the Jews.  Women had important religious responsibilities in the home, and these Mary would have learned from her mother.  It is unlikely that she could read – that was a skill required of men, but not of women.  Women stayed away from the disputations and decisions of the synagogue – leave all those complications to the men.

I think that we can say that Mary was simple in the best sense of the word.  And she was pure,  which is to say, un-mixed, single in intent.  And Mary, in her simplicity, trusted God..  Mary in her purity had faith.  And in her freedom, her own individual freedom, Mary said “Yes.”  She had the courage freely to say “Yes.” “Be it unto me according to thy word.”

*     *     *     *     *

“For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” for he that is mighty hath magnified me and holy is his name.”  Mary said “Yes” and her yes is a pattern and an example for all women and all men.  And we honor her as our example: Mary, the maiden, shows you and me what it is to be human, what is is to be Man.

But we also honor her as Mary, herself, the one particular individual person who in her freedom cooperated with God, and by that cooperation – her unique, individual “Yes” – became the entrance of salvation into the world.  Hail Mary!  In a very real sense, your salvation and mine depended upon the faith and trust of a young woman.  Mary, therefore, in the wisdom of God, had a role in our salvation and in the salvation of the whole world. God’s plan depended on her “Yes,” “Be it unto me according to thy word.” God demands our freedom, our free response and Mary’s free response.  It could be, it can be, no other way.

 Mary had a role in our salvation. And in a mysterious and sweet way she is still involved. In the order of grace and in the communion of saints she, Mary, is our mother. Even the most skeptical of Biblical scholars will tell us that when, in John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks from the Cross: “Woman, behold thy son” – “Behold thy mother,” a possible meaning of the text itself – not something imposed – is that Jesus is commending the Church to the spiritual motherhood of Mary. We cannot be certain that the Gospel means precisely that, but it is possible. Certainly, the Church has from earliest times understood those words of Jesus in that way. And it has been the experience of Christians that they have in Mary a spiritual mother, for she has been to them in the order of grace what their own mothers have been / should be in the order of nature. She is a help and an encouragement. Hail Mary ! She is a support and a comfort. Hail Mary !  She, in the life of the spirit is a blessed and sweet source of nurture and motherly love.

*     *     *     *     *

It is an awful thing to be free, dear brothers and sisters, and most of us find it difficult to bear. We are alone in our freedom. We must be. But we need not be lonely, for the Christian and Catholic religion is not a lonely place. No.  In faith, as the Epistle of the Hebrews tells us, we enter “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,” and in faith we have fellowship with “innumerable angels in festal gathering,” with the “assembly of the first-born,” those who said “Yes” to God. And in faith we have fellowship with her who first said “Yes” and began the new cooperation. She is our mother and the mother of Jesus our Savior and Brother. And she is worthy to be praised now, just as she was greeted by the angel so long ago:

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Amen.

This Week at the Advent, December 30, 2018-January 5, 2019

If you are visiting or new  to the Advent, we hope that you will feel welcome and at home.  Please fill out a visitor’s/newcomer’s card so that we will have a record of your visit here and can keep in touch.


All persons baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit are invited to the Altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you wish to receive a blessing, come to the Altar and cross your arms over your chest.


Childcare will be available for the Evening service on December 31.  The caregivers are in the nursery space adjacent to the Parish office and arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to the service. 


9:00 am—Infant nursery is located on the first floor in the room beyond the Parish Office.  The Toddler nursery is located downstairs in Moseley Hall.

11:15 am—Infants and Toddlers are cared for on the first floor in the room beyond the office.

If you have questions or special needs we want to hear them.  Contact Meg Nelson 856-217-0847 or megwnelson@gmail.com.


9:00 Coffee Hour. Barbara Boles and the kitchen staff host the Coffee Hour this morning! New coffee hour hosts are always needed; please contact Barbara Boles by email, bbolesster@gmail.com or telephone (617-501-7572) if you’re interested or have questions about what is entailed.

11:15 Coffee Hour. Steven Sayers & Ross Wood and Lynn Eustis host the Coffee Hour this morning. We are always in need of more volunteers to do the coffee hour.  To view the schedule of available dates and select a date to co-host, please go to http://theadventboston.org/1115-coffee-hour-signup/.  If you have any questions, please contact Frederick Ou (frederick.ou@gmail.com), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com). 


THIS WEEK


The Parish Office will be closed on Tuesday, New Year’s Day.


COMING UP


Common Art—Sunday, January 13—An art show of professional and amateur art will be held in the Library on January 13. The artwork comes from the unhoused population of Boston who make up Common Cathedral.  Come and see various types of artistic expression which come from the hearts of those who attend weekly Common Art sessions in Boston.  All art work is available for purchase.  Please contact Pastoral Assistant Eric Fialho at efialho@eds.edu with any questions. 


ODDS & ENDS


Discount Vouchers for the Boston Common Garage are available for $9.00 each from Deacon Daphne or Nola Sheffer. You can find them between the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses at the Coffee Hour or Entr’acte. The vouchers can be used after 4:00 pm weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Questions? email: nsheffer@newview.org.


Some months ago, Advent Parishioner Brian Sirman published a remarkable study of the recent history of our city, Concrete Changes:  Architecture, Politics, and the Design of the Boston City Hall.  He argues that this still controversial building was part of a deliberate and successful plan to change Boston, to turn it away from being a sleepy, provincial capital run by old Yankee families and corrupt politicians into an international and influential city.  This fascinating book would make a perfect Christmas gift for someone interested in understanding how Boston, as we know it today, came to be.  Copies are available in the Book Store.  


Vestry Nominations.  Please note that several members of the Vestry, a Treasurer and a Clerk will be elected at the Annual Meeting to be held on Sunday, January 27, 2019.  It is not too early to think about members of the Parish whom you think would serve effectively on the Vestry.  A Nominating Committee, consisting of John Higgins, John Boyd, Maria Denslow, Kara Rodgers, and the Wardens, Tom Brown and Paul Roberts, is ready to receive the names of those whom you wish to nominate.  Please speak to them beforehand to make sure that they are willing to run.   


The Annual Parish Meeting is Sunday, January 27, 2019. Contributions to the 2018 Annual Report must be in the Parish Office no later than 12:00 Noon on Friday, January 4, 2019. All heads of committees or groups are expected to submit a report. 


A New Gallery!  Cats, as everyone knows, have been an important part of the life of the Advent for the past twenty years.  There have been four church cats in the past, and there is Simon, now very much in the present.  I have assembled a gallery of these kritters—Gray Baby, Bradley, Jake, Jeoffry and Simon—and, with the help of Cassie Gurnon, have hung it the outer office around the copy machine.  Take a look. — Father Warren


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
December 31, 2018-January 6, 2019

Monday, December 31
5:00 pm: Festival Service of Christmas Lessons & Carols by Candlelight

Tuesday, January 1, 2019
The Holy Name (Parish Office Closed)
11:00 am: Mass
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, January 2
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing

Thursday, January 3

Friday, January 4
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, January 5
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Sunday, January 6
The Feast of the Epiphany
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Procession & Sung Mass
11:15 am: Procession & Solemn Mass

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

We beseech thee, Almighty God, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation, that when thy Son our Lord cometh he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.


Collect for the Season:

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This Week at the Advent, December 23-29, 2018

The Advent Wreath is given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Norman McGregor Post, priest, & Jane Irene Post. 


If you are visiting or new  to the Advent, we hope that you will feel welcome and at home.  Please fill out a visitor’s/newcomer’s card so that we will have a record of your visit here and can keep in touch.


All persons baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit are invited to the Altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you wish to receive a blessing, come to the Altar and cross your arms over your chest.


Childcare will be available for the Evening services on December 24 and December 31.  The caregivers are in the nursery space adjacent to the Parish office and arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to the service. 


9:00 am—Infant nursery is located on the first floor in the room beyond the Parish Office.  The Toddler nursery is located downstairs in Moseley Hall.

11:15 am—Infants and Toddlers are cared for on the first floor in the room beyond the office.

If you have questions or special needs we want to hear them.  Contact Meg Nelson 856-217-0847 or megwnelson@gmail.com.


9:00 Coffee Hour. David Russo & Matt McNeff and John Boyd host the Coffee Hour this morning! Next week the hosts will be Barbara Boles and the kitchen staff.New coffee hour hosts are always needed; please contact Barbara Boles by email, bbolesster@gmail.com or telephone (617-501-7572) if you’re interested or have questions about what is entailed.

11:15 Coffee Hour. Charles Dale, Carole Moussalli and Amanda Daley host the Coffee Hour this morning. Next week the hosts will be Steven Sayers & Ross Wood and Lynn Eustis. We are always in need of more volunteers to do the coffee hour.  To view the schedule of available dates and select a date to co-host, please go to http://theadventboston.org/1115-coffee-hour-signup/.  If you have any questions, please contact Frederick Ou (frederick.ou@gmail.com), Roxy Hanson (roxenewu@yahoo.com) or Kyle Pilares (kpilares.uk@gmail.com) or Betsy James (ejames4@nc.rr.com). 


The Parish Flower Guild needs your help this afternoon!  After the 11:15 Mass we will have a light lunch and then put up all the greens and candles! 

Decorating the church for Christmas is a lot of work, and the Flower Guild can’t do it alone.  We need volunteers this afternoon—floral design skills are not required—if you can carry a bucket, climb a stepladder, or fill a trash bag, we can use you!  And if you can spare an hour or two but not come for the entire block, that’s perfectly OK. 


It’s that time again!  As we have done the past few years, guests at the Tuesday Evening Community Dinner will be given Gift Cards to Dunkin’ Donuts as their Christmas gift from the Advent.  This will allow them to go to a warm place and get hot coffee and something to eat during the cold months of winter.  If you wish to make a donation—and we hope you do—send it in marked “Donuts.”


THIS WEEK


Nota Bene:  In order to allow the Flower Guild and the Organists and Choirs prepare for the Christmas Eve Masses at 4:30 pm, the special music and the Mass beginning at 11:00 pm and the 11:00 Mass on Christmas Day, the midday Mass on Monday, December 24, is cancelled.


Christmas Service Schedule
The schedule of Christmas services at the Advent can be also found on the back page of Sunday’s leaflets.  There are cards available at the back of the church giving the full Christmas schedule.  Please take them and give them to your friends and neighbors.


The Parish Office will be closed this week on Tuesday, Christmas Day, and on Wednesday, December 26. 


Every year stuffed animals and infants’ clothing are presented at the crèche during the 4:30 pm Mass on Christmas Eve.  This year these donations will be given to the Fragment Society, who, since their inception in 1812, have been distributing clothes to Boston’s poor and needy.  They are especially in need of infant clothing and small stuffed animals to include in the more than 400 layettes that volunteer ladies involved in the organization assemble each year. 


COMING UP


Common Art—Sunday, January 13—An art show of professional and amateur art will be held in the Library on January 13. The artwork comes from the unhoused population of Boston who make up Common Cathedral.  Come and see various types of artistic expression which come from the hearts of those who attend weekly Common Art sessions in Boston.  All art work is available for purchase.  Please contact Pastoral Assistant Eric Fialho at efialho@eds.edu with any questions. 


ODDS & ENDS


Discount Vouchers for the Boston Common Garage are available for $9.00 each from Deacon Daphne or Nola Sheffer. You can find them between the 9:00 and 11:15 Masses at the Coffee Hour or Entr’acte. The vouchers can be used after 4:00 pm weekdays, and all day Saturday and Sunday. Questions? email: nsheffer@newview.org.


Some months ago, Advent Parishioner Brian Sirman published a remarkable study of the recent history of our city, Concrete Changes:  Architecture, Politics, and the Design of the Boston City Hall.  He argues that this still controversial building was part of a deliberate and successful plan to change Boston, to turn it away from being a sleepy, provincial capital run by old Yankee families and corrupt politicians into an international and influential city.  This fascinating book would make a perfect Christmas gift for someone interested in understanding how Boston, as we know it today, came to be.  Copies are available in the Book Store.  


Vestry Nominations.  Please note that several members of the Vestry, a Treasurer and a Clerk will be elected at the Annual Meeting to be held on Sunday, January 27, 2019.  It is not too early to think about members of the Parish whom you think would serve effectively on the Vestry.  A Nominating Committee, consisting of John Higgins, John Boyd, Maria Denslow, Kara Rodgers, and the Wardens, Tom Brown and Paul Roberts, is ready to receive the names of those whom you wish to nominate.  Please speak to them beforehand to make sure that they are willing to run.   


The Annual Parish Meeting is Sunday, January 27, 2019. Contributions to the 2018 Annual Report must be in the Parish Office no later than 12:00 Noon on Friday, January 4, 2019. All heads of committees or groups are expected to submit a report. 


A New Gallery!  Cats, as everyone knows, have been an important part of the life of the Advent for the past twenty years.  There have been four church cats in the past, and there is Simon, now very much in the present.  I have assembled a gallery of these kritters—Gray Baby, Bradley, Jake, Jeoffry and Simon—and, with the help of Cassie Gurnon, have hung it the outer office around the copy machine.  Take a look. — Father Warren


STEWARDSHIP 2019


Dear Fellow Advent Parishioners:

Our Stewardship 2019 committee wanted to give a very big thank you to all Advent parishioners who have responded with their pledges to this year’s campaign.  Your support has seen this year’s campaign already surpass last year total pledges with more responses still to come.

The favorable response from so many Advent parishioners to the “Plus 10%” theme for 2019 has been a strong expression of how the Advent community feels about this special and sacred place of worship.  All pledges that we have received are important to supporting the necessary activities of the Wardens and Vestry in this transition year; in addition, it is especially gratifying to see 24 new pledges which is another sign of on-going strength of this vibrant place of worship.

Again, on behalf of the Wardens, Vestry and the Stewardship Campaign 2019 committee, we want to extend a warm thank you during this blessed Advent Season to all our Advent parishioners.  Your support and response to this “calling” is a blessing upon us all.

All our best wishes for a wonderful and blessed Advent Season and for the New Year 2019.

Francesco Piscitelli & Thatcher Gearhart
Stewardship Co-Chairmen

As of this past Friday we have received 174 pledges, pledging a total of $512,439.  79 have increased their pledges by 20%, and there are 24 new pledges.  We have still to hear from 55 parishioners who pledged a total of $79,180 last year.

The Stewardship Committee thanks all who have made a pledge so farIf you have not yet pledged, please do so soon.  

If you requested pledge cards when you submitted your pledge for 2019, they are in the back of the Church in alphabetical order.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
December 24-30, 2018

Monday, December 24
The Vigil of Christmas
10:00 am: Flower Prep
4:30 pm: Family Mass & Procession to the Crèche
10:15 pm: Musical Prelude
11:00 pm: Procession & Solemn Mass

Tuesday, December 25
Christmas Day (Parish Office Closed)
11:00 am: Solemn Mass
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, December 26
St Stephen (Parish Office Closed)

6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing

Thursday, December 27
St John the Apostle

Friday, December 28
The Holy Innocents

11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, December 29
Thomas à Becket

Sunday, December 30
The Sunday after Christmas
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School
11:15 am: Solemn Mass

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Allan B. Warren III at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, December 16, 2018, the Third Sunday of Advent

It never ceases to surprise me, when I pay close attention to how we talk, and I notice how much of casual conversation consists of stock phrases.

I don’t mean formulae, like “Good morning” or “Thank you” or “Excuse me.” Those have to do with manners – good manners – and they are there to make encounters and relations smoother and easier than they would be without them.

No, I’m thinking of things like “It is what it is,” something lots of people say today. Or “the whole nine yards.” Something lots of people said ten or so years ago. Or for that matter, “It never ceases to surprise me,” which we heard at the beginning of this sermon.

There’s nothing wrong with stock phrases. We need them almost as much as we need words themselves. They can, however, become stale, and then we drop them. The worst thing, though, is when a stock phrase becomes a platitude, for as strange as it may seem, platitudes have a way of hanging around for ever and ever.

Here’s one: “Where there’s life there’s hope.” “Where there’s life there’s hope.” A platitude, certainly, and how many times have we heard it? It’s one of those phrases one seems to learn with the language, and I suspect that all of us have said this from time to time. Like most stock phrases we just let it drop without thinking. “Where there’s life there’s hope.”

But, you know, if we do stop and think about it, we will be forced to admit that it is absolutely untrue. Perhaps that’s too strong. Let’s just say that it is a combination of words that sounds all cheerful and optimistic, but in fact has little connection with reality at all. “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” Well, yes . . . sometimes . . . if it is a hopeful situation in which life finds itself. So, where there’s hope there is—yes—hope.

But what if the situation is not hopeful? And there are situations in life which are like that, aren’t there? Dead ends. Times when all the possibilities have been exhausted, and there is nothing to look forward to. The field comes up all tares, no grain. The patient does not respond to treatment. Life . . . but no hope. Hopeless. What then? . . . “Where there’s life, there’s hope. It doesn’t hold water, does it?

The funny thing, though, is that if we take this mindless phrase we’ve heard so many times and simply turn the words around, then we get something that is true and, indeed, profoundly true. “Where there’s hope, there’s life.” The Bible teaches that one on every other page, and it’s something most of us come to know instinctively, just from living. “Where there’s hope there’s life.”

Haven’t there been times in your life—there certainly have in mine—when things seemed so bad, so down, that the only thing that got you up in the morning and through the day was the hope that at some point the bad would stop and the good get going again? I’ve lived that way myself, and I’ve seen the same in others. Doctors and nurses and anyone who works with people who are gravely ill will tell you about this in a particularly dramatic way. Sometimes people seem to stay alive and eventually they recover by the sheer force of the hope which is in them and the will-to-live which springs from that hope. At other times a person—perhaps a person who is not really that sick—nevertheless loses hope and very quickly there is decline and often death. Life and hope: for human beings at least, the two are related, very closely related, and in such a way that life, it seems, often depends on hope. Without hope life just fades away.

* * * * *

This is certainly what the Bible teaches, and scripture teaches it because this is what the people of the Bible learned from their experience of life and God, and they pass this lesson on to us to learn as well. It would be hard to imagine a story more motivated and determined by hope—hope disappointed and hope fulfilled—than the history of the Old Testament. The ancient Hebrews were a people sustained by hope and expectation and the promise which they believed their God had made to them: that they would always be His people, and He would always be their God. He would never abandon them. Without that trust and hope in God’s faithfulness there would have been no Old Testament. Life depends on hope, and their hope kept the Jews alive. It sustained them through defeat after defeat, betrayal after betrayal. It held them together when they were in exile in Babylon. They were a people of Covenant—yes—but a people also of promise and hope. They would be His people, and He would be their God.

And without that hope there would have been no New Testament, for at a certain point the hope of Israel began to focus itself and become specific: the God of Israel would send to His people One who would realize all their hopes—the Messiah, God’s anointed and the agent of His action and His promise. Through that Messiah God would overturn the disappointments which Israel had suffered. In that Messiah God would be with His people and would be their God in a way which they had not yet known. The Messiah would be Emmanuel, God-with-us, a name of promise, a title which points to hope fulfilled.

And, paradoxically, at the same time that Israel’s hope focused and became specific in a Messiah to be sent by God, it also blossomed out and became universal. A hope not only for the Jews, but for all people. It became the hope that all the peoples of the earth would become the people of God, that all nations would be included in His loving promise to the Jews. By God’s Messiah all humanity would be gathered into His Kingdom. There would be a new cosmos in which the purposes of God for creation and for humankind were fulfilled.

We heard Zephaniah’s prophecy this morning:

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. . . . Behold, at that time I will deal with your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown. . . . I will make you praised and renowned among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.
(Zephaniah 3)

And we heard also from St. Paul, as he writes to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say Rejoice ! Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4)

* * * * *

Dear people, that focused, specific, and yet universal hope is for us a precious legacy of Israel, and something which we Christians share with the Jews of ancient times. In Advent, we look forward to the celebration of the birth and first appearing of the One whom we believe to be the Messiah, God-with-us. And we look forward as well to His second coming—to the end of time and of the world as we know it, to the creation in Christ and by Christ of the new heaven and the new earth promised by God. And we no less than the Jews live by that hope.

Jesus’ Second Coming is more than something tacked on to the end of the Creed, as if an afterthought. It is, rather, as Fleming Rutledge so ardently insisted two weeks ago, an essential part of the faith and an essential part of the life of Christians. It is something which we both expect for the future and which we realize within ourselves in the present. And that is to say, that in this world in which we await Him, we are called by our manner of life to make His Kingdom, the next world, present and active. We are called to live here and now, as if it were then and there.

His peace, His love for us, His active grace and holiness makes real within us the Lord’s Kingdom, which is His coming Sovereignty within the world, a Sovereignty of truth and peace and love and holiness and grace.
You and me, Christ’s Body, the Church, brings the future into the present and is nourished by the substance of her hope.
At the Altar Jesus comes to us and offers us the new bread and wine of His Kingdom, which is Himself.

Amen.

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent (“Gaudete” Sunday)

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.


Collect for the Season:

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.