December 01, 2015

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your 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 living and the dead, we may rise to the life immor- tal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for Advent 1

I love Advent. It begins with the above Collect, speaking for us of the darkness that surrounds us and the hope that is within us. It will end with one of my very favorite passages from Luke, The Magnificat, Mary’s song of rejoicing with Elizabeth as together they find hope for the world from the babies they carry. We will say and sing Mary’s Magnificat on the last Sunday of Advent. And throughout Advent, we will sing the message of these two prayers in the traditional hymn of Advent:  O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel. Hallelujah- despite the darkness, there is hope!!

Hope is the singular message of Advent, and as we begin lighting the candles on the Advent wreath, the first week is Hope. Particularly when the world is in turmoil, and in the midst of the recent terrorist attacks, Hope can be missing and seem naïve. But in Advent, the candle of Hope will remain lit throughout the subsequent weeks and through Christmas… may it never die!

Some in our own families and parish family enter this season of Advent feeling the darkness in a way that drains hope… for although Advent points to the promise of the light come to shatter all darkness, the death or loss of those dear to us feels as if light in our world is gone forever. When feeling that the light is gone… when we are sad, lonely, adrift or alienated while others are having parties, cheerful, celebrating with friends and family, and few moments are given to grieving… it can be especially hard to believe the promise that in time, Hope will return – All will be Well – that the Light of the World has come, is coming, will come again.

This year, we are making a special time and place to mark sadness in this season of hope. The second Sunday of Advent, December 6 – the week of Peace- we will have “Blue Christmas” and we both honor those we have lost or miss, and hold onto the truth that even in our losses and longing for the fullness of joy when all things are finally made whole and complete again, we can indeed have Peace. Peace has come with the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Thanks be to God – He comes and comforts us, now and forever.

The Third Week of Advent is the week of Joy  – sometimes called Gaudete Sunday- French for Rejoice! It tells us to remember to Rejoice in the Lord Always – in the darkness, and in the light – always rejoice! The rose candle is lit and reminds us that the turning has come – we pass the midpoint of Advent that week, and are in the homestretch… both in Advent, and in life. We as people have passed the midpoint and are in the homestretch, so, rejoice! The savior comes… and so we enter the last weeks with joy and anticipation of the great celebration of Christmas.

The last week of Advent is the week of Love – and we enter into the final preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth – and with joy, we will sing, Love Came Down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine. Love was born at Christmas, stars and angels gave the sign. Hallelujah!

Thus, in Advent and throughout December, we walk in a precious hope even in the darkness that surrounds us. That hope is part of our very identity in Christ: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5.  

St. Francis reminds us:
All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. And a candle such as the world has never before or since seen, came in the form of a baby boy, born to Mary and Joseph, in a manger – a humble birth for the King of Kings – Rejoice!

Hope – Peace – Joy – Love… Present in Christ, now and forever!…darkness scattered, light present…this is the beautiful message of Advent and Christmas – what joy that we are sent to make it known to the world!

The joy of this message is the heart of Mary’s Magnificat:
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior…
For he that is mighty hath magnified me, and holy is his Name.

Luke 1:46-5
Let us go forth in Advent, Christmas, and all our lives, proclaiming with Mary, by word and deed: My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
The dawn is near… light breaks forth and defeats darkness… Hallelujah!

May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you, and remain with you always.  Amen.

Vicar Janet