Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Jeffrey A. Hanson at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, December 9, 2018, the Second Sunday of Advent

With the season of Advent the church begins a new year. And we begin Advent in Year C with Luke chapter 3, which recounts the entirely unique ministry of John the Baptist. And we begin with this passage because Luke’s Gospel narrative in a way begins right here. The wonderful stories of Jesus’s miraculous birth, infancy, and childhood, the ones we ponder at Christmas, are a prelude really to Luke’s main story. The main story that Luke wants to tell is the story of universal salvation; it is the story of the forgiveness of sins made possible though the Incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and that story begins right here with John the Baptist, who I believe for Luke stands at the culmination of a very long tradition of prophets, a tradition that our collect reminds us of this day.

We can see this first in all these seemingly irrelevant details at the beginning of our passage today about who is ruling over what: Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate is governor, Herod the ruler, Annas and Caiaphas the high priests and so on and so forth. What is all this name-checking about?

First of all, I think this is Luke’s way of connecting John the Baptist to the great heritage of the Old Testament prophets, who are frequently introduced in terms of who was king over Israel or Judea when the prophet in question began to prophesy. We see the same sort of thing when we are told that John the Baptist was Zechariah’s son, because again it was commonplace for a prophet to be introduced in terms of their parentage. And we see the same thing in verse 2 when Luke tells us that “The word of God came to John” in the wilderness. This phrase, “the word of God came to so and so,” is a typical locution used to introduce readers of Scripture to a prophet.

But I think there is also something deeper going on here in this seemingly formulaic introduction. Because one of Luke’s great interests, one of the things he constantly goes back to in his Gospel from start to finish, is the way in which the message of Jesus Christ is one that completely disrupts, disturbs, and overturns the world and its values. The Gospel message is one that for Luke enters into this world in order to completely turn it upside down.

Notice that the word of God comes to John the Baptist in the midst of a world of power: emperors, governors, rulers, even religious authorities. But the word of God comes to none of these powers: not to the emperor, not to the governor, not even to the chief priest. No, the word of God comes to an outsider, a strange and solitary outsider, out in the desert, who will preach against these authorities and powers and hold them to account so ferociously that eventually they will kill him for it.

So who is this man to whom the word of the Lord came? Who is John the Baptist?

We know from Luke’s Gospel already that he is the son of Zechariah, who was a priest. He is a miracle child, who is born to his mother Elizabeth in her old age by the promise of God, much like his relative Jesus is born miraculously to his mother Mary.

In chapter 1 we are told by Luke, “indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.” So God’s hand is upon John the Baptist from birth and even from before his birth and this is so evident that everyone around his family expresses wonder and anticipation at him, and they ask themselves “What then will this child become?”

What indeed. His father, Zechariah, is gifted with a prophecy of his own, and he seems to have some idea what this child of his will become. In words that we Episcopalians still use at every Morning Prayer Zechariah prophesies about his own infant son: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people, by the forgiveness of their sins.”

What then will this child become? He will become the last and greatest of the prophets, the one to personally prepare the way of the Lord, just as Isaiah said so many centuries before.

So while Luke positions John the Baptist at the culmination point of a long history of prophets, he also portrays him as unique among the prophets. Because John the Baptist prepares the way of the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that no prophet before him has. Many men and women prophesied to Israel before: They warned against coming judgment; they called the people to repentance; they pointed the way toward a future Messiah who would deliver Israel from her enemies.

John the Baptist though does not warn against a coming judgment from within history, like military defeat at the hands of old enemies like the Assyrians or the Babylonians or natural disaster like fire or flood. John the Baptist warns the people that a new epoch in history itself is opening up. What he sees looming on the horizon is not an event waiting to happen within the future; it is God’s intervention within history that is about to happen, it is the eternal God about to break into the horizon of time itself in the form of God’s only Son Jesus Christ.

And John the Baptist preaches repentance all right, but again he preaches repentance not just because repentance is the right thing to do but because a decisive and radical event requiring repentance is at hand. Luke thinks of the salvation offered through Christ as also entailing the judgment of the world and all its fallen and corrupt and bogus values and priorities. This is why he connects John the Baptist to Isaiah, who says that to make ready the way of the Lord is to make his paths straight, to flatten the mountains and to raise up the valleys and to straighten everything that is crooked because everything the world values and holds up high is about to be brought low, and everything the world disdains and holds in low regard is about to be raised up and exalted, because the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ means that he is about to turn the world and what it deems worthwhile right on its head.

Finally, John the Baptist does not just point the way to the Messiah; he will see the Messiah with his own two eyes, a privilege not afforded any of the many men and women who prophesied before him; he alone of the prophets will be able to literally point to the salvation of God in the living, breathing person of Jesus Christ.

And in fact John the Baptist, the whole meaning of his ministry, his very being consists in this pointing to Jesus Christ, as you’ve seen him depicted in countless works of art. Because if there is one thing that John knows it is that Jesus Christ is God’s salvation of the whole world. And this is why Luke says that John the Baptist does not just prophesy but he fulfills prophecy: Because of him we can see it becoming true that all flesh—all humanity, not just God’s chosen people but all people—will see God’s salvation because John the Baptist stands there alone and ragged pointing the way to him.

And that’s why John the Baptist is the perfect person for Advent. Even though, as our guest preacher last week, Fleming Rutledge, likes to say, you’ll never see John the Baptist in an Advent calendar. Can you imagine? A sort of Currier-and-Ives Advent calendar with candy canes and sleigh bells on the doors, and then you open it up and there’s a picture of a guy in a hair shirt with a half-chewn locust sticking out of his mouth. Maybe the inside could say: “Seasons greetings, you brood of vipers!” That would not sell at all.

But it would preach. Because John the Baptist’s message is one that is still important for us today. John the Baptist, by pointing the way to Jesus Christ, gives us a perfect role model. Because every priest’s job, every preacher’s job, indeed, every Christian’s job, is John the Baptist’s job.

Our job, like his, is to point to Christ, by our words and deeds to point to him who saves us all, to point to the one by whose grace and power all flesh shall see God’s salvation.

John the Baptist’s call to repentance is also still timely, because repentance is always timely. My favorite philosopher Søren Kierkegaard says that repentance always comes at what he calls “the eleventh hour,” because repentance is never too late. God is merciful and patient and affords us plenty of opportunity to repent of those things within us that are still in need of correction, and there are crooked things within us that need straightening.

But repentance is also at the eleventh hour because while it is never too late to repent, repentance is always in the nick of time. The time of Advent is the eleventh hour: It is not yet midnight, time is not run out, but there is an urgency to the Advent season that presses upon us.

Even the very word “Ad-vent” in Latin means “to come at” or “come toward,” because we do not move into the future in Advent. In Advent a radical, disruptive future comes at us, and that radical, disruptive future, foretold by John the Baptist, comes at us in the form of a surprising and unpredictable person—the Son of God born as an infant. It is he who comes at us from outside history and time and the warped and fallen world—to judge that world and set it straight. It is he who comes at us with an urgent demand to straighten what is crooked in our own lives in order to be ready to receive the forgiveness of sins at his hand.

So a new year calls for a new beginning. Is there an opportunity this year for you can point the way to Christ for your friends or neighbors or co-workers? This time of year is a good one to invite someone close to you to church to see for themselves the one to whom all this beauty and symbolism and liturgy points. It’s a good time of year to extend the gift of hospitality to someone lonely or far from home or unloved, someone the world doesn’t pay much attention to. Is there something crooked in your life that needs straightening out? It’s no mark of spiritual maturity for us to imagine ourselves as in no need of repentance. Quite the opposite. The more schooled we are in the Christian life the more keenly conscious we should be of our need for repentance. With the season of Advent, the eleventh hour has struck. For all these things, now is the time.

Amen.  

Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent

Merciful God, who didst send thy messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, 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 9-15, 2018


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.


Saturday, December 15—Christmas Pageant Rehearsal–at 9 am.  We will gather in Moseley Hall to sort out costumes and we will rehearse in the Sanctuary.  (Please let Meg Nelson know ASAP if you are able to help with getting the costumes sorted and ready to go for Saturday morning—you may contact Meg at megwnelson@gmail.com.) 

If you are interested in having your child participate in the Pageant, please email Meg Nelson for more information. 

Sunday, December 16—Christmas Pageant—during the 9 am Mass.  

Evening services (December 24 and December 31)—as a reminder, we always have childcare available for these evening services. The caregivers are in the nursery space adjacent to the Parish office and arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to the service. Childcare is provided for infants and toddlers during both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses. 


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. Maggie Dunbar and Nola Sheffer host the Coffee Hour this morning!  Next week the hosts will be Judy Bell & Franceso Piscitelli and Cassie & Jack Gurnon. 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. Philip & Anh Sawyer, Theo Theoharis and Corey Rouse host the Coffee Hour this morning.  Next week the hosts will be Karen Harrington, Ellie Dixon and Frederick Ou. 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). 


Entr’acte:  This Sunday Fr Warren will conclude Entr’acte for the year with the third part of an examination of the various sects within what is called Christianity:  what they believe, what they practice, how they differ from Classical Christianity.  That’s after the 9:00 Mass in the Library. 


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.”


A Note to parents:  Those administering Communion are not always aware of the children who receive Holy Communion and those who do not yet receive.  So, small children who wish to receive Holy Communion should be instructed by their parents to extend their hands, palms side up, so that the person administering Communion will be aware that they wish to receive.

Compline at the Advent—this evening at 8 pm—join us for the ancient liturgy of Compline, preceded by Lucernarium, an evening service of lamp-lighting. Members of the Advent Choir will sing chant and contemplative music.  We pray Compline on the second Sunday of every month at 8:00 pm in the nave. 


THIS WEEK


The Wednesday morning Bible Study will meet in the library this Wednesday at 10:00 am.  We are currently studying the epistles First and Second Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  Please come, bring your Bible, and someone you know.  


New Bible Study Course—1, 2 & 3 John:  Word, Truth, & Love in an Evil World—Continuing this Wednesday, December 12, an in-depth five-week course will be offered starting at 7:00 pm in the Library.  Pastoral Assistant, Eric Fialho, will again lead a thought-provoking Bible Study.  All attendees will receive scripture journals.  Each session will last roughly 90 minutes and cover various histories, key themes, and enduring theologies as expressed in the shortest Epistles of the New Testament.  For more information please contact Eric at efialho@eds.edu.  


COMING UP


Hold this date.  Theology on Tap returns on Monday, December 17, at 7:00 pm at the MAST Restaurant and Drinkery, the Lower Bar, 45 Province Street,Boston.  Visual Artist Stephanie Cardon will be speaking to us about her public artwork titled Unless, a dramatic floor-to-ceiling installation at the entrance to the landmark Prudential Center.  


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. 

Christmas Service Schedule


MISSION & OUTREACH CORNER


The Coat Drive Concludes!!—We have wrapped up our drive and are happy to report donations of 70 coats, jackets, fleeces, and vests to Children’s Services of Roxbury, offering programs and services in early education and care; behavioral health; youth and families; and housing and stabilization to residents of Roxbury, Tewksbury, Worcester, and Northampton. Thanks to all who made donations of coats or dollars to our One Warm Coat drive.—Deacon Daphne


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.


At the Advent Book Store!  Advent Calendars, Christmas Cards, Christmas music; 2019 Ordo Kalendars and Pocket Diaries; all available at our Book Store.

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. 


The parish Flower Guild needs your help!  Decorating the church for Christmas is a lot of work, and the Flower Guild can’t do it alone.  We need volunteers on the following days; 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. 

  • Sunday December 16, around 1:00 pm. After the 11:15 coffee hour we need help carrying all the Christmas material out of storage and up into the church.  Making one or two trips before you leave is a big help.
  • Saturday December 22, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
  • Sunday December 23, 1:30 to 5:00 pm.  After the 11:15 Mass we will have a light lunch and then put up all the greens and candles.  

STEWARDSHIP 2019


Dear Fellow Advent Parishioners:

Our Stewardship Campaign 2019 with this year’s theme “Plus 10%” reached a key milestone date last Sunday as we celebrated the First Sunday of Advent.  This special occasion marked the beginning of the Advent Season and served as a key date for Advent parishioners to make their pledges for 2019. 

The 2019 campaign is off to an excellent start thanks to everyone who has already pledged.  We are hopeful to receive the remaining pledge submittals in order to maintain the momentum thru this Advent Season.  Please remember that 2019 is a transition year with the well-deserved retirement of our beloved Rector Father Warren.  The Wardens and Vestry will use your pledge commitments for several important upcoming functions to include 2019 Parish budget planning and as an important element in our Parish profile to be utilized by the Search committee for the new Rector.

As Tom Brown mentioned in his Senior Warden’s letter on Stewardship, this year’s “Plus 10%”campaign is an opportunity for the Advent community to come together with a strong commitment that clearly demonstrates that the Advent is a vibrant and special place of worship sacred to us all.

Please be reminded to get your pledge in either by mail, on-line or simply by dropping in Sunday’s offering basket.  Our campaign will continue thru the Advent Season and the earlier we receive your pledge commitments the better able we are to assist the Vestry with their important planning for 2019. 

Thank you for your support. 

We are yours in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Francesco Piscitelli & Thatcher Gearhart
Stewardship Campaign 2019, Co-Chairmen

As of this past Friday we have received 165 pledges, pledging a total of $495,249.  75 have increased their pledges by 20%, and there are 22 new pledges.  We have still to hear from 64 parishioners who pledged a total of $94,010 last year.

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

You can pledge online by going to the parish website www.theadventboston.org and clicking the “Pledge Online” button.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
December 10-16, 2018

Monday, December 10
10:00 am: Advent School Rehearsal
4:00 pm: Beacon Hill Village Party

Tuesday, December 11
2:00 pm: Requiem (Dodie McGrath)
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, December 12
8:30 am:  Advent School Parents’ Meeting
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing
7:00 pm: Bible Study

Thursday, December 13
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, December 14
John of the Cross

10:00 am: Advent School Concert
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, December 15
9:00 am: Pageant Rehearsal
10:00 am: Flower Guild
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Sunday, December 16
The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete)
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Pageant & Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School
11:15 am: Solemn Mass
1:15 pm: Flower Guild Setup

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Fleming Rutledge at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, December 2, 2018, the First Sunday of Advent

Across the Charles River, in Cambridge, the famous psychology professor Steven Pinker thinks that the world is getting better. In a recent interview he says that, thanks to the Enlightenment and especially to science, life on earth is improving. He acknowledges that human beings “tend to backslide into irrationality,” but all in all, placing his hope in science and human reason, he thinks the data show that we’re improving. [1] Andrew Carnegie, the steel tycoon and great philanthropist, thought that, too; after reading Darwin on evolution, he embraced a motto as his personal creed, “All is well because all grows better”—and Carnegie spoke confidently about man’s “march to perfection.” [2]

Some of you perhaps know or even studied with Professor Pinker. He is a far more sophisticated thinker than Andrew Carnegie. I’ve paid a lot of attention to reports on Pinker’s work. I realize that I’m generalizing and oversimplifying, but still, I’d say that reliance on scientific data—combined with faith in human potential—is likely to go hand in hand with an optimistic view of the human future. The Bible and human nature are best understood, however, not by scientific investigation but by those who teach and read literature.  The greatest literary novelists show us the human heart from the inside: how it deceives us, goes its own irrational way, draws us into situations we did not intend—and they show us how little real control we have over our more destructive impulses. The Bible itself shows us real human beings, some of the most unforgettable in all world literature, who thought things and said things and did things that they did not rationally intend. Professor Pinker is not naïve about this, but still and all, he really believes that human progress is unstoppable. He seems to think that science and technology can solve our problems if we can only be rational, high-minded people—people, presumably, like himself.

Today is the first Sunday of the Advent season. There is a lot of misunderstanding about Advent. The Episcopal Church does Advent better than any other tradition (I’m definitely bragging here), but even Episcopalians are slipping into the cultural mindset which tells us that we need to start Christmas way early, because this is “the most wonderful time of the year” and the place to be is on the “city sidewalks, meeting smile after smile” as we listen to “silver bells”—and, of course, spend a lot of money. On the city sidewalks of New York that I frequent, there are not many smiling people, mostly people in a great hurry to accomplish their goals as they speed past increasing numbers of homeless beggars. It’s difficult to withstand the allure of the commercial Christmas, but the Advent season, properly understood, is designed to strengthen us for life in the real world where there are malignant forces actively working against human wellbeing and the divine purposes of God.

The Bible is a story, not a scientific document nor a collection of spiritual principles. It tells us how we came to be who we are in this world, how we fractured the image of God in ourselves by our rebellion, and how our Creator came in his own Person to transfigure us into the likeness of the Son who became incarnate in our human flesh. It tells us of the powers of Sin and Death and their hold on us. The biblical story is rigorously unsentimental. It doesn’t offer optimism. It doesn’t offer “positive thinking.” It looks deeply into human misery, human folly, human pain, and plain old human disappointment. I like what the writer Lawrence Morrow said about the century of the World Wars and genocide: instead of a growing Enlightenment it seems more like an Endarkenment. [3]

This is a world in which two world leaders, President Putin and the Saudi Crown Prince, both of them murderers, gleefully high-fived each other on camera two days ago at the Group of 20 meeting. This is a world in which no one seems to know what to do about the catastrophic famine encroaching upon Yemen. This is a world in which the promise of freedom and democracy in Poland and Hungary is shifting before the eyes of the world into oppression and autocracy. In 1989, at the time of the triumph of the Solidarity movement in Poland, one public intellectual wrote rapturously, “somewhere an angel has opened its wings.” [4]  Where is that angel now?

This is a world in which our very best intentions turn against us. Yesterday I read this in The Wall Street Journal:

Washington once thought that it could help to bring a wave of liberalization and democracy to the post-9/11 Middle East by toppling the Taliban in Afghanistan and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. The US has now abandoned such dreams, largely  standing aside and watching—under both Obama and Trump—as Syria’s dictator has murdered hundreds of thousands of his country’s citizens. [5]

Did you come to this worship service to get depressed? Is that what the preacher is doing up here? Advent always begins in the dark.

But there is a “but.”

I’d like to tell you a little bit about the book of the prophet Zechariah. I doubt if many of you know much about this little book in the Old Testament, but the first reading today is from Zechariah. Long ago I heard a respected, experienced preacher say that when you are preparing to preach from a biblical text, you first need to read the whole book that the text comes from.  I took that advice this past week and read the book of Zechariah for the first time in quite a while. I had almost forgotten what a wonderful book it is! But we definitely need some help to understand it.

Everything in the Bible can be understood as pre-Exile and post-Exile. [6] Before the Babylonians came and conquered the Hebrew nation, laid waste the Temple, and carried its people far away into exile in a pagan land, the promises of God seemed secure. The land of milk and honey was in the possession of the people the Lord had chosen to live and flourish there. But God’s people did not live according to the will of God. They became indifferent to the poor, they perverted the system of justice, they turned to foreign gods. God’s judgment, long delayed by God’s mercy, descended upon them in the form of the Babylonian hordes, and they were taken away to the land where those foreign gods reigned supreme. Or so it seemed. The challenge to the supremacy, even the very existence of the God of Israel was overwhelming. The entire Hebrew project seemed to be at an end.

This historical situation is illustrated in the first chapters of Zechariah. The prophet looks for a king who will restore the fortunes of Israel, but this is an earthly, human king he’s prophesying about (Zerubbabel). This is typical of the pre-exile biblical mentality. The promises of God will take place from within the progress of history. That’s the first eight chapters, which may have been taken from the words of the actual prophet Zechariah. After chapter 8, though, we are in the post-exilic world. The passage we read today is from the second half of the book. The chapters in this section move us into a different world view which we call apocalyptic. Don’t be put off by this word; it doesn’t have the same meaning as it does in our culture. It’s actually a biblical word. In Greek the word apocalypse means revelation[7]

After the Exile, biblical theology changes. Before the exile, the thinkers of Israel looked to history for their hopes for the future. They had a lot of data that strengthened their conviction about the faithfulness of God in the history of their people.  They were confident, secure, flexing their muscles, certain of their standing, heedless of the warnings of the pre-exilic prophets like Jeremiah. After the Exile, the prophets began to write in a different strain. This second line of development in biblical thought is what we look to in the season of Advent.

After the Exile, the thinkers of Israel gave up on history as a confident way to find hope for the future of humanity. The great theological movement that Advent represents was the turn to the future of God. The early part of Zechariah looks for historical vindication, but it does not come. After this, the whole Bible moves in the direction of the future, the coming Day of the Lord. This is the reason (did you know this?) that the Christian Bible is arranged differently from the Hebrew Bible. The books are exactly the same, but in the Christian Old Testament the Wisdom literature comes in the middle and the prophets come at the end, looking ahead to the intervention of God from beyond and outside of history. Here we begin to hear the prophecies of a Messiah who will come “with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13-14). The very last words of the Old Testament point us ahead, not to data about human possibility, but to the promises of God in the midst of human impossibility. When human hope and human potential have failed, the prophet tells us of cosmic happenings, with mountains moving and valleys filling up (“every valley shall be exalted, and mountains and hills made low”—Isaiah 40:4) , so that every “red line” “in the sand” of demarcation is obliterated.

In that final movement of God for the salvation of the world, “ there is neither cold nor frost, and there shall be continuous day, for at evening time there shall be light” (Zechariah 14:7). I love cemeteries where the gravestones have biblical verses on them. In one of the cemeteries where our family members were buried in the 19th century, there is a tombstone with the inscription, “At evening time there shall be light.” I used to think that was from some sentimental Victorian poem. What a thunderclap to realize that it is from the apocalyptic passage in Zechariah where the new creation from God comes into being! It’s not about the death of an elderly person slipping away into the clouds. It’s about the redemption of the entire human story and the created cosmos, transformed by the mighty intervention of God. And those redeemed by God “will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).

And all of this, these majestic prophecies about the end of human history, comes into being in a way that would have been humanly inconceivable: the ordinary birth of an infant in the most lowly of conditions, received by most of the world by utter indifference, by some of the world by murderous rage (Herod), but by an infinitesimal few with awe that heaven has come to earth. God to earth, not the other way around. His movement, his purpose, his promise fulfilled. God’s work, not ours. We could not, and we cannot, accomplish this with all our learning and all our achievements. Only God can do this.

The post-exilic writing of the Bible is always a threat to those who think well of human potential. Our default position since the day of Adam and Eve is to think that we can pull this project off by ourselves (“with God’s help,” of course [8])…. Advent, however, begins in the dark where human prospects and human hopes are confounded. As Isaiah writes, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.”

At this point the same question always arises: “So what is there for us to do? If God is going to do it, what role is there for us to play?” This is the perpetual complaint of human nature. Again, we want the credit. We push back, perpetually, at the idea of the grace of God being free, gratuitous, and complete in itself without reference to our contributions. If that is indeed the gospel that lies at the heart of the miracle of Christmas, what then should we be doing in the Advent darkness? What can we contribute to the coming of the light?

Here is another story from the recent news. Three years to the day after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 and wounded nearly 500, the city gathered for a somber memorial ceremony.  Two American newspaper reporters collected testimonies from those who sought to process their rage and grief through the arts. The article focuses on one project in particular, a documentary film by two brothers named Jules and Gédéon Naudet—born in France, living in New York. These brothers, as it happens, were filming in lower Manhattan on September 11 and were the only people to capture clear video footage of the first jet striking the North Tower.  Their documentary about 9/11 is a classic, shown streaming in a museum in New York. Their new documentary is called “November 13: Attack on Paris.” The brothers were interviewed about their experiences making the Paris documentary. Jules Naudet said that they wanted to do a different film from the one about 9/11. The brothers explained that instead of focusing on the bombing, the carnage, the horror, and the destruction, they sought out the survivors. This time, they said, we wanted to recreate the effects of the attacks “by being in the heads” of the people they interviewed. They were surprised by what they found. In their words you’ll see the connection to the Advent message and to our human response as we live in faith and in hope:

Here is what Gédéon Naudet said:

 None of the survivors talk about hatred, revenge and killing. You have a choice: You go the dark way or you go the way with [the] light. [9]

And Jesus said,

There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads,
because your redemption is drawing near.

(Luke 21:25:28; see also Daniel 7:13-14)

AMEN.


[1] Karen Weintraub, “Steven Pinker Thinks the Future Is Bright,” New York Times, 11/20/18.

[2] These quotations are sourced and expanded in my book The Crucifixion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016), 198-200.

[3] Lance Morrow, Evil: An Investigation (New York: Basic Books, 2003), 213.

[4] I have to find this quotation (possibly Timothy Garton Ash?)

[5] Karen Elliott House, “Rethinking Saudi Arabia,” The Wall Street Journal, December 1-2, 2018.

[6] An oversimplification for homiletical purposes, but there is an essential theological point to be made.

[7] The Book of Revelation is also, properly,  called The Apocalypse.

[8] This phrase is in the baptismal service of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. The revisers took the active verb to be away from God! The earlier version reads, “I will, God being my helper”—which is much stronger.

[9] Alissa J. Rubin and Elian Peltier, “After 2015 Paris Attacks, Processing Grief Through Art,”  New York Times, 11/14/18.

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

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 2-8, 2018

A Special and Important Announcement From the Wardens

Dear Parishioners and Friends of the Church of the Advent:

We are pleased to announce that the Rev’d Truman Welch will serve as Interim Rector during our period of transition and search following Father Warren’s retirement.  Father Welch will take up his position effective Monday, January 28, 2019.  His first Sunday will us will be February 3, 2019,  when we will celebrate Candlemas.  We will hear Father Welch preach that day and welcome him at celebratory coffee hours after both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses.

Father Welch retired four years ago as Rector of Good Shepherd, Waban.  By happy coincidence, Father Welch’s predecessor there was none other than our own Rector, Father Warren.  So in addition to his experience as the leader of a parish, Father Welch is deeply familiar with our Anglo-Catholic traditions of worship and teaching.  He also has a wonderful personal calmness and pastoral presence about him, which are excellent traits for a time of transition.

We are grateful to our Bishop for his careful attention to the Advent in proposing Father Welch to us, and for his counsel and guidance in discerning the right path for us during the upcoming period of transition.  We are also thankful to the Vestry and the Clergy for their thoughtful and prayerful participation in this process.  Please keep Father Welch and Bishop Gates in your prayers, just as you have Father Warren.

Faithfully your brothers in Christ,
Thomas Brown & Paul J. Roberts, Wardens.


The Advent wreath is given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Norman MacGregor Post, priest, and 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.


Church School News:  Today, there is no Church School; instead, there will be Advent Wreath making in the Library immediately after the 9 am Mass.

Saturday, December 15—Christmas Pageant Rehearsal–at 9 am.  We will gather in Moseley Hall to sort out costumes and we will rehearse in the Sanctuary.  (Please let Meg Nelson know ASAP if you are able to help with getting the costumes sorted and ready to go for Saturday morning—you may contact Meg at megwnelson@gmail.com.) 

If you are interested in having your child participate in the Pageant, please email Meg Nelson for more information. 

Sunday, December 16—Christmas Pageant—during the 9 am Mass.  

Evening services (December 2, December 24 and December 31)—as a reminder, we always have childcare available for these evening services. The caregivers are in the nursery space adjacent to the Parish office and arrive approximately 15 minutes prior to the serviceChildcare is provided for infants and toddlers during both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses. 


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. Melissa & Eric Baldwin and Carolyn & Tom McDermott host the Coffee Hour this morning!  Next week the hosts will be Maggie Dunbar and Nola Sheffer. 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. Jason Grant, Philip Marshall & Kara Rodgers 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). 


The Last Gospel for Advent.  Here at the Advent, at the end of the Midnight Mass at Christmas and on Christmas Day, we hear the Last Gospel (John 1:1-16) read after the Dismissal of the Mass.  Its proclamation of the reality of the Incarnation seems particularly appropriate at Christmas when we celebrate God’s entering the world and human life to save us and bring us back to him.  We borrowed this practice, though restricting it to one day of the year, from the mediaeval Church when the Last Gospel was read at the end of every Mass. 

The text itself is powerful and familiar, which is doubtless why it got attached to the Mass.  In the past, it was read over the sick to promote healing.  We learn from Chaucer that in his day it was read by itinerant friars upon entering a house to invoke God’s blessing upon the household.  (Chaucer’s particular, unscrupulous friar was quite eloquent and also quite happy to charge for his incantation!)

Fr Jay Weldon, Rector of my former parish, Good Shepherd, Waban, called my attention to the custom of a Last Gospel for Advent.  The Last Gospel is read, but it is not completed.  Like Advent, itself, it looks forward to its joyful completion at Christmas.  There is the usual salutation, but the response, “Thanks be to God” is not said until the Gospel finds its fulfillment at Christmas.

Father Warren


Today is the First Sunday of Advent, our Feast of Title & Dedication, the 174th Birthday of the Church of the Advent.  At both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses Stewardship pledge cards for the year 2019 will be presented and blessed.  This will take place just before the Great Thanksgiving (Consecratory Prayer) of the Liturgy.


We are very fortunate and we will be blessed by having the Rev’d Fleming Rutledge with us as our preacher that morning.  She is a celebrated preacher, lecturer, and the author of numerous books.

Copies of her most recent book, Advent:  The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, a collection of sermons appropriate to and also about the Season, are available in the Book Store.  In a brief review of the book, Fr Warren wrote:  “For Fleming Rutledge, the proper celebration of Advent is crucial for the exposition of the faith of the church and the practice of the individual Christian.  She argues passionately for a return to the original twofold focus of the season—a looking back to the Incarnation and a looking forward to the second coming of Christ and the consummation of all things. . . . The sermons in this volume demand more than one reading.  They are born out of an intimate knowledge of Scripture, prodigious learning, and Rutledge’s own experience as a Christian believer, parish priest, and teacher.  They are written with clarity and conviction and, occasionally, an almost heartbreaking honesty.”

Copies of her magnum opus, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ are also available.  This is essential reading for anyone who wishes to delve deeply into the Mystery of our Salvation by the death and rising of Jesus.  It is lengthy but very accessible, written not for scholars but for people in the pews. 


This afternoon, Professor Damin Spritzer, of the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma, will offer a half-hour program of Advent organ music at 4:30 pm.  At 5:00 pm, the Advent Choir will sing the beloved service of Advent Lessons & Carols, including music by Byrd, Dove, Ferguson, Jackson, Lehman, Łukaszewski, McDowall, Moyer & Vaughan Williams. The evening concludes with a gala reception in Moseley Hall.


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


The Wednesday morning Bible Study will meet in the library this Wednesday at 10:00 am.  We are currently studying the epistles First and Second Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  Please come, bring your Bible, and someone you know.  


New Bible Study Course—1, 2 & 3 John:  Word, Truth, & Love in an Evil World—Continuing this Wednesday, December 5, an in-depth five week course will be offered starting at 7:00 pm in the Library.  Pastoral Assistant, Eric Fialho, will again lead a thought-provoking Bible Study.  All attendees will receive scripture journals.  Each session will last roughly 90 minutes and cover various histories, key themes, and enduring theologies as expressed in the shortest Epistles of the New Testament.  For more information please contact Eric at efialho@eds.edu.  


COMING UP


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. 

Christmas Service Schedule


MISSION & OUTREACH CORNER


The Coat Drive Continues—Please help us reach our goal of 100 coats, or make a dollar donation. All tax deductible, of course.  Deacon Noyes has details.


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.


At the Advent Book Store!  Advent Calendars, Christmas Cards, Christmas music; 2019 Ordo Kalendars and Pocket Diaries; all available at our 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 parish Flower Guild needs your help!  Decorating the church for Christmas is a lot of work, and the Flower Guild can’t do it alone.  We need volunteers on the following days; 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. 

  • Sunday December 16, around 1:00 pm. After the 11:15 coffee hour we need help carrying all the Christmas material out of storage and up into the church.  Making one or two trips before you leave is a big help.
  • Saturday December 22, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
  • Sunday December 23, 1:30 to 5:00 pm.  After the 11:15 Mass we will have a light lunch and then put up all the greens and candles.  

STEWARDSHIP 2019


As of this past Thursday we have received 131 pledges, pledging a total of $365,295.  53 have increased their pledges by 20%, and there are 17 new pledges.  We have still to hear from 93 parishioners who pledged a total of $203,774 last year.

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

You can pledge on line by going to the parish website www.theadventboston.org and clicking the “Pledge Online” button.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
December 3-9, 2018

Monday, December 3
10:00 am: Advent School Rehearsal

Tuesday, December 4
John of Damascus
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, December 5
Clement of Alexandria
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing
7:00 pm: Bible Study

Thursday, December 6
Nicholas of Myra
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, December 7
Ambrose of Milan
11:30 am: Rosary

Saturday, December 8
Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
10:00 am: Flower Guild
10:00 am: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Sunday, December 9
The Second Sunday of Advent
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School / Entr’acte
11:15 am: Solemn Mass
8:00 pm: Compline

Sermon Preached by Eric Fialho at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, November 25, 2018, the Feast of Christ the King

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom…to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

These words from the Revelation according to John are words which speak of a ruler, of one who has authority to free us, to forgive us, and these are words which tell us that glory and dominion are due to him, to Jesus Christ or Lord.

On this holy day, the day we recognize Christ as the King we are confronted by these words at the beginning of John’s Revelation, and they are words which speak of a cosmic Christ, the Christ enthroned, the Christ who is the alpha and the omega — the first and the last.

The book of Revelation is certainly dear to me, some may remember that last year I led a Lenten study of Revelation here last year, and I can now say without any hesitation that this, of all the books of the Bible is my favorite.

As some may know at the center of Revelation is a Christ who is reigning. A Christ who calls us to await a creation renewed, a creation fully realized.

Christ is there in glory, in opposition to Satan, to the powers of the world. Through it all Christ is at center as a most unlikely King, that of a lamb at times as a slain lamb. A king now but also a lamb. A lamb which was slain, Jesus, the sacrifice. The One who came to reign for many through his own self-giving, his own rending of flesh, an unlikely King to be sure.

The reason I love Revelation so is that this imagery so encapsulates what is at the heart of our faith, a lamb who laid down his life, a life given to be a ransom for many.  And his reign, his Kingship was not acquired through the usual things— through conquest, or earthly power, or edict. No but it is the lamb as king, the perceived loser as king, the crucified as king.  The unexpected King.

What then is a king? A king is often defined as being a ruler who inherits a kingdom and reigns over it.

To many of us here present Christ the King is a comforting image. An all sovereign God who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns for ever and ever. A sovereign Kingly Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. We are held by this King, a King who rules with justice and with truth.

Our hearts are also ruled by him, and our minds, our wills are striving to be in his Kingdom, subject to his power and to his love forever throughout all time.

While Christ and King may be synonymous things for us, while Christ and King may be indistinguishable things for us, for some kingship is an inconvenient term, for some a king is a tarnished figure, a figure who rules with ferocity, or through fear, or alongside corruption.

For many, king is not synonymous with Christ. For many kingship is spoiled by wicked men and women throughout time who through their own ends made life for many chaotic, and altogether pained.

Why is this? People in different lands often fall victim to the whims and fancies of dictators, of all-powerful leaders, of kings and queens. For many a king is tyrannical. A king can come to exemplify the worst traits humankind is imbued with. A king can be self-serving, or oppressive, or abusive.

Again there are many who, when thinking of the figure of a sovereign see malevolence where some may see benevolence. They see uncertainty where others see assuredness.

How then, in light of an understanding that many in this world are victims of fear, injustice, and oppression due in part or fully to king or queen-like figures, how are we to look upon this holy day in our Church Calendar— the day of Christ the King, with this in mind?

We need not trouble ourselves with denying that many in this world go hungry due to wicked rulers, and that many were and are murdered in oppressive governments, or reigns, or theocracies.

So then, is it not surprising to come to understand that the equating of Jesus with a king is for some devout Christians on this earth just too much to grasp.

The evils which certain rulers can bring to humankind can so cloud ones estimation of what a king is. Experiencing tyrannical rule can bring a person to even lose sight of Christ who is a king, and who said his kingdom was not from this world.

The ills brought to one through corrupt regimes and careless leadership can bring one to disconnect Christ from Kingship. To equate Christ with kingship is just too saddening for some.

—-

Think on that. Human rulers, kings, queens, tyrants, have sometimes made it so that some who lived on this earth, and some who live now on it are unable to bring themselves to think on Christ’s kingship for it is just too painful. As a result of the hardships, and memories, and strife some endured its just not worth mentioning the word.

On this feast day we together continue to look heavenward, awaiting His coming with the clouds where every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.

There is no best way to help those who do not want to bring themselves to consider Christ as King. It is their prerogative, their right as Christians who have been hurt by wicked rulers to not equate kingship with Jesus. They think on Jesus’ divinity with other terms and in other ways, and for them it still brings them to the knowledge of Christ’s saving deeds. 

A good king is hard to find. The ancient audience of Revelation knew that, and we too know that. Perhaps in a way John in his apocalypse is making it known that there never was nor shall there ever be a good king. Except one.

We do not typically associate a slain lamb with an almighty, all-knowing King, but, again, this seemingly unreconcilable pairing, this pairing of Lamb and King which seem to be at odds with each other, is what is there before us. The lamb is plain. The lamb need not be brightly adorned, but instead its wounds are its vestments. 

——

What we hold out hope for is that day, when, yes, Creation is made whole, the world is made complete, and Christ who reigns now and forever assures,

through love, that he is indeed a king, and that his kingship is above all others,

that his sovereignty is the truest.

Christ will be in the midst of it all as the ruler he was intended to be, a fair one, a loving one, the One who is before all tarnished kings.

And when we behold him, when we behold him, the King, in glory everlasting, whose to say that we will not behold a lamb?

Amen.

This Week at the Advent, November 25-December 1, 2018

The flowers at the High Altar are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Frances Lee McCormick and Barbara McCormick. 

The flowers at the Crossing are given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Staff Sergeant Matthew Albert Pucino, U.S. Army Special Forces. 


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 is provided for infants and toddlers during both the 9 am and 11:15 am Masses. 

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 host the Coffee Hour this morning! Next week the hosts will be Melissa & Eric Baldwin and Carolyn & Tom McDermott. 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. Stephen Kies and Jonathan Maldonado host the Coffee Hour this morning. Next week the hosts will be Jason Grant, Philip Marshall & Kara Rodgers.  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). 


Entr’acte:  continuing this Sunday Fr Warren will conclude Entr’acte for the year with a three-part examination of the various sects within what is called Christianity:  what they believe, what they practice, how they differ from Classical Christianity.  That’s after the 9:00 Mass in the Library.  The sessions conclude on December 9. 


Today, the last Sunday of the Church’s liturgical year, is the Feast of Christ the King.  This is a fairly recent feast day in the Church, having been established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a counter to the totalitarian regimes which were coming into being in Europe at the timeIn time, it was adopted by the Anglican and Lutheran Churches and is now widely celebrated throughout the world. 

It is a special and unique feast which celebrates and sums up the various meanings of the liturgical year.  Christ past—as from Advent to Advent we mark His life, His teachings, His Passion and Resurrection.  Christ present—as we enjoy His gracious presence in our lives by the preaching of the Word, the celebration of Sacraments, and the fellowship of his Body, the Church. Christ to come—as we await the establishing in the world of His Kingdom of harmony, peace, and love. 


THIS WEEK


The Wednesday morning Bible Study will meet in the library this Wednesday at 10:00 am.  We are currently studying the epistles First and Second Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  Please come, bring your Bible, and someone you know.  


New Bible Study Course—1, 2 & 3 John:  Word, Truth, & Love in an Evil World—Continuing this Wednesday, November 28, an in-depth five-week course will be offered starting at 7:00 pm in the Library.  Pastoral Assistant Eric Fialho will again lead a thought-provoking Bible Study.  All attendees will receive scripture journals.  Each session will last roughly 90 minutes and cover various histories, key themes, and enduring theologies as expressed in the shortest Epistles of the New Testament.  For more information please contact Eric at efialho@eds.edu.  


COMING UP


Next Sunday, December 2, is Advent Sunday, our Feast of Title & Dedication.  We will celebrate this auspicious day with a joyful Procession to mark our founding and a Solemn Mass for the First Sunday of Advent.  We are very fortunate and we will be blessed by having the Rev’d Dr Fleming Rutledge with us as our preacher that morning.  She is a celebrated preacher, lecturer, and the author of numerous books.

In the afternoon, Professor Damin Spritzer, of the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma, will offer a half-hour program of Advent organ music at 4:30 pm.  At 5:00 pm, the Advent Choir will sing the beloved service of Advent Lessons & Carols, including music by Byrd, Dove, Ferguson, Jackson, Lehman, Lukaszewski, McDowall, Moyer & Vaughan Williams. The evening concludes with a gala reception in Moseley Hall.

Copies of Dr Rutledge’s most recent book, Advent:  The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, a collection of sermons appropriate to and also about the Season, are available in the Book Store.  In a brief review of the book, Fr Warren wrote:  “For Fleming Rutledge, the proper celebration of Advent is crucial for the exposition of the faith of the church and the practice of the individual Christian.  She argues passionately for a return to the original twofold focus of the season—a looking back to the Incarnation and a looking forward to the second coming of Christ and the consummation of all things. . . . The sermons in this volume demand more than one reading.  They are born out of an intimate knowledge of Scripture, prodigious learning, and Rutledge’s own experience as a Christian believer, parish priest, and teacher.  They are written with clarity and conviction and, occasionally, as almost heartbreaking honesty.”

Copies of her magnum opus, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ are also available.  This is essential reading for anyone who wishes to delve deeply into the Mystery of our Salvation by the death and rising of Jesus.  It is lengthy but very accessible, written not for scholars but for people in the pews. 


MISSION & OUTREACH CORNER


The Coat Drive Continues—Please help us reach our goal of 100 coats, or make a dollar donation. All tax deductible, of course.  Deacon Noyes has details.


Enjoy great music and help our Tuesday night Supper!  This afternoon the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra presents the music of Weber, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich in a concert at Symphony Hall beginning at 3:00 pm.

As guests enter or exit Symphony Hall during this BPYO performance, Music for Food will be collecting donations to support the Tuesday Night Supper Program at Boston’s Church of the Advent.  Every dollar donated becomes three meals for those in need.  We hope you will join us in supporting Music for Food and transforming the nourishment of music into food!  Tickets are available at their website,  www.bostonphil.org


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.


At the Advent Book Store!  Advent Calendars, Christmas Cards, Christmas music; 2019 Ordo Kalendars and Pocket Diaries; all available at our Book Store.


This afternoon, at 4:00 pm, The Bach Project at Ashmont Hill Chamber Music returns for its second season.  The concert will be held at our sister parish, All Saints, Ashmont (209 Ashmont Street, Dorchester).  The Bach Project is a baroque ensemble of instrumentalists and singers, including several members of the Advent Choir, as well as the boys of All Saints’ Choir.  Tickets can be purchased ahead of time by visiting the Ashmont Hill Chamber Music website:  www.ahchambermusic.org.  Tickets are $25 for adults, $18 for students, $3 for EBT card holders, and free for children under 13. 


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 parish Flower Guild needs your help!  Decorating the church for Christmas is a lot of work, and the Flower Guild can’t do it alone.  We need volunteers on the following days; 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. 

  • Sunday December 16, around 1:00 pm. After the 11:15 coffee hour we need help carrying all the Christmas material out of storage and up into the church.  Making one or two trips before you leave is a big help.
  • Saturday December 22, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm

Sunday December 23, 1:30 to 5:00 pm.  After the 11:15 Mass we will have a light lunch and then put up all the greens and candles.  


STEWARDSHIP 2019


As of this past Thursday we have received 99 pledges, pledging a total of $284,296.  36 have increased their pledges by 21%, and there are 14 new pledges.  We have still to hear from 121 parishioners who pledged a total of $272,609 last year.

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

The Committee encourages all parishioners to get their pledges submitted on or before our Feast of Title & Dedication, which is next Sunday.

You can pledge on line by going to the parish website www.theadventboston.org and clicking the “Pledge Online” button.


THIS WEEK AT THE ADVENT
November 26-December 2, 2018

Monday, November 26
6:00 pm: Boston Cecilia Rehearsal

Tuesday, November 27
5:30 pm: Community Supper

Wednesday, November 28
Kamehameha & Emma of Hawaii
10:00 am: Bible Study
6:00 pm: Healing Mass
7:00 pm: Bell Ringing
7:00 pm: Bible Study

Thursday, November 29
7:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Friday, November 30
Saint Andrew the Apostle
10:00 am: Beacon Hill Garden Club Meeting
11:30 am: Rosary
8:00 pm: Boston Cecilia Concert

Saturday, December 1
Nicholas Ferrar
10:00 am: Flower Guild
4:00 pm: Advent Choir Rehearsal

Sunday, December 2
The First Sunday of Advent—Feast of Title & Dedication 
7:30 am: Morning Prayer
8:00 am: Low Mass
9:00 am: Procession & Sung Mass
10:15 am: Church School
11:15 am: Procession & Solemn Mass
4:30 pm: Organ Recital
5:00 pm: Service of Advent Lessons & Carols

Collect for the Feast of Christ the King

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in thy well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by the calamity of sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Jay C. James at the Church of the Advent, Sunday, November 18, 2018, the Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost

From Saint Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews:  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.

We can grow closer to Christ even in times of trial and when we come through trials and tribulations, we will know the joy of the Lord. 

What is Jesus talking about when He is warning Peter, James, John, and Andrew to watch for the desolating sacrilege?  It must be pretty bad!  It is a sacrilege and not just a sacrilege, a desolating sacrilege.  On top of that it is going to be, as He describes, …set up where it ought not to be.  This sounds redundant because what kind of sacrilege would ever be where it is supposed to be?  This is a sacrilege that means something of God is made to be completely unholy and profane.  More than this, it is desolating, as if to say it is so bad that anything having to do with holiness is decimated.  We hate to think of something that can be that bad and we certainly would not want to be around to see it.  Yet Jesus tells the disciples they will see it and they should look for it.  The desolating sacrilege will begin the season of great tribulation.  Plan on it. 

The profaning and desolation of sacred things brings to mind a scene from the Maundy Thursday liturgy at the stripping of the Altar.  A number of parishioners complained to the Rector of an Anglo-Catholic parish about the behavior of their sexton during the stripping of the Altar.  It seems that the sexton, a truly devout, practicing Catholic who adored everything about the liturgy, took it upon himself to be the one removing the high Altar Cross as the last dramatic scene in the stripping of the Altar.  In his old age he would take his rickety wooden step ladder and painfully, slowly, place it in the middle of the footpace, climb with his mud-caked work boots up the ladder, crawl onto the Altar, grind dirt into the fine cracks of the marble Altar, grab the three-foot tall Cross and then slowly make his way down the ladder with everyone praying that he and the Cross made it to the footpace, down the Altar steps and barely make it off to the sacristy with him and Cross in one piece.  The parishioners lamented to the Rector that this whole thing was unseemly, disrespectful, and he, the Rector, should stop it.  “Don’t allow him to ruin the whole thing.  We don’t come to Church on this holy day to watch things be destroyed and ruined.”  The Rector said, “But isn’t that what the stripping of the Altar is all about?  It should be complete and utter desecration. There is nothing left, everything is ruined because there is no Godly presence there.”  The Rector was right and that reflects but is not even close to as bad as the desolating sacrilege. 

Jesus has the disciples begin looking for a time when the worship of God is put to an end.  This would be accomplished by a foreign political force that would not only stop the religious sacrifices of the Jews, but would replace their halted religious practices with forced pagan rites and ceremonies. Jesus said, ‘When you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. He then describes the urgency and the severity of the time when it happens and gives examples of how immediate and intense the desecration will be. He concludes with a stern warning, But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand. The community to whom He is preaching and teaching knows well the history and tradition of desecration so powerful that even the worship of God is stopped.  There is a long tradition of this type of desecration in the religious lives of the Jewish people.  Jesus knows about it and the disciples and the people to whom He is teaching know about it. 

A number of times in the history of Israel there have been pagan political powers take over holy places like Jerusalem and made worship impossible.  The armies desecrated holy places of the Jews and made them places of worship to other gods and not theGod of Israel.  The first desolating sacrilege was in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes took over the Temple in Jerusalem and placed an altar to Zeus over the altar intended for the offerings of the Jews.  This is the abomination of desolation we read about in the twelfth chapter of Daniel.  And from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. In His teaching on Mount Olivet Jesus is privately warning Peter, James, John, and Andrew of yet another desolating sacrilege that will take place as part of the great tribulation at the end of time.  Whatever shape this coming abomination takes is not revealed but Jesus warns them to be ready because when it happens it will be a sign that the Christ is soon coming again. 

There are times when some of us wonder whether we are seeing signs of this great tribulation before Christ says he will come again.  Every time there is a big event that has monumental proportions, with the backdrop of the battle between good and evil, some will wonder whether this is part of the great tribulation and that encourages us to look for an accompanying desolating sacrilege.  In retrospect none of these signs or events has turned out to be a sign of the end of time. Most recently, the turning of the annual calendar from 1999 to 2000 was supposed to result in chaos and the beginning of the end.  Eighteen years have brought us here safely, so we know that it was not the beginning of the end.  The Hale-Bopp Comet passing so closely to us in 1997 was to trigger massive occurrences in nature and societies around the world that some predicted the end on its arrival.  Nothing happened except great glee for some amateur and professional astronomers over never-before-seen pictures.  I suspect some other 20th century events like the two World Wars with their battle of evil political and ideological forces and the enormous scale of armies involved gave rise to predictions of the Great Tribulation. Again, we are still looking for and attempting to interpret signs of a sacrilege that will leave us desolate and put us at the beginning of Jesus’ predicted tribulation.

Going through a predicted tribulation or enduring a present form of tribulation does not sound inviting.  No one looks forward to disaster, or struggle, or destruction of anything; materially or spiritually.  We should want always to have the joy and privilege of worshipping our God and we do not want that taken away. We do not like to think of calamitous or destructive times.  For the Christian, though, we know from Jesus there will be those times.  They may be at the end of time or even through times of struggle in our lives here in the world.  When we look at these predictions from the Bible; apocalypses they are called in Biblical language (a word that simply means revealed or uncovered) we find that there is always the good triumphing over the forces of evil.  It takes a trial, a tribulation, to be lived through or overcome, but in the end there is great joy, even exultation. 

The trial is there for the Christian and the tribulation is always worth the reward that comes after the endurance.  It’s much like the trial of exercising our muscles to get them fit and stronger especially if we are to achieve a goal.  The pain and strain of the body must be endured in order to achieve the desired goal. We might not like the trial of exercising but we find joy and delight in the results. 

Notice that we have this building to a great crescendo even in the Church Year.  The readings for today are intended, I think, to be a preparation for celebrating The Feast of Christ the King next week. The liturgical calendar parallels the course of our lives.  We end the Church Year with Christ being honored and praised and exalted as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He is Resurrected, Ascended, and Glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father at the end of our Church Year.  Today our Scripture readings purposely cover the warning by Jesus to be ready for Him to come again, because He will keepHis promise to return.  Our lives here in the world are intended to be a preparation, a trying out, a tempering and forging of a life hid with Christ so that we can be ready to meet Jesus when we die or when He comes again in all His glory. 

So what do we do in the meantime?  We heed Jesus’ warning.  We move forward through any trials and tribulations given us.  The good news is that progress can be made in our lives even through times of trial.  This is why Saint Paul is so encouraging to the Hebrews.  There is a reward for the faithful who endure and remain steadfast followers of Christ here in the world.  Saint Paul knows the hardships they have endured and encourages them with these words, But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.

Continue to be faithful to the Church while we are waiting.  This is a place that will prepare us for eternity.  We are given the Word of God written to reveal to us what God expects of us and to show us the love and grace He has for us.  It is here that we have the graceful Sacraments to aid us and sustain us through the tribulations and, yes, in fact, also the joys of this life.  In Thomas Cranmer’s brilliance he wrote our opening collect as a thanksgiving for the salvation that comes to us even in the Bible.  The Word of God in the Bible has the saving knowledge for our souls. According to that prayer if we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest God’s Holy Word, we can hold fast (endure) the hope of everlasting life.  So it is indeed God’s Word that we have to be about through this world, but that’s not all the Church has for us. 

The grace of the Sacraments is there for us too and we use this time well to avail ourselves of them.  Think of the Sacraments as kinds of crutches, supports, aids to make it through this world of trials to get to the next world.   We do not need the Sacraments in heaven.  We need them here.  We need to be sustained daily by God’s grace so Holy Communion is offered daily.  We need healing and in the Sacraments Jesus is healing us according to His will.  We need all the means of grace the Sacraments have to offer and when we receive it faithfully we will be making good use of this time of tribulation before Christ comes again.  We will be well prepared for that Second Coming.

Christians look forward to Christ coming.  We may have to look forward with fear and trembling because we are in a time of trial, but we know and rely on Christ’s promise to come again.  We could not have a better dedication for our parish church than The Church of the Advent.  Our Church dedicated to Christ coming reminds us every time we say the title, every time we enter here, that our hope for the end of time, and our reason even to make it through each day is the Coming of Christ.  We will be kept strong and faithful by God’s Grace in His Word and Sacraments so we will not be those, in the words of Saint Paul who shrink back and are destroyed.  We will be of those who have faith and keep their soulsSo Come Lord Jesus

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