Advent begins

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Advent starts today, and it is that season of joyful yet somber (or sober) preparation for the Nativity of our Lord. It also is a season of muted traditions that seems to be bypassed by many. In the churches the season is marked by purple vestments that hint towards Advent being a traditional season of penance, though a season much different from Lent. It is a season marked by occasional Advent wreaths, and begins the season when Christmas lights and Nativity Scenes or crèches begin to appear. The gospel reading tell us to be vigilant. Anticipation, and warning are mentioned regarding that day which is to come, a day of judgement. Preparation and vigilance are needed. The gospel readings clearly set the tone for the season, they foretell the importance of the day to come. They give testament to the importance of Christmas. But what about today, how do I approach that first candle. What is my vigilance? Am I alert? What is going on around me?

That all comes from more than a few years ago, it is old writing. But still, it is the first week of Advent and what does that mean? Advent is a season of anticipation; we wait and what we wait for is the Christ. The Christ translates the Messiah, and that translates salvation. What we wait for is something after and that implies something before. We wait in Joyful anticipation, and in waiting for some joy there most certainly must be some sorrow that comes before it. To wait for a joy, must imply that there is a sadness to escape. Those ancient people prayed that a Messiah come and deliver them from their suffering. They (those ancient people of Judaea) did not scream for someone to join their party, they cried that they be delivered from their suffering. Advent is a transition; it is a prayer to be delivered from adversity to a promise for something better. It is a prayer to be delivered from something bad to something good. A prayer to be lifted from sin to grace. A prayer for a change. In its essence, advent is a prayer. It is a hope. It is a desire.

With Advents prayers, hopes, and desires one must ask a question or two, or three. What does one pray for, that is rather personal, but the answer should be to be delivered from sin. To be delivered from sin requires that the person acknowledge their sins. Advent has its origins as a penitential season, and that is something most people forget about today. A prayer is a petition, and a petition for a change. Granted none of this is complex theology, it is simple. To await something suggests a vacuum. To await salvation implies bondage, and can any person truly declare that they are free? Might that be the first lesson of the season? To realize our frailties, to catalogue them or confess them with the joyful anticipation that the Messiah might set us free.

That is purple, at least in one of its meanings. The color of Advent. It is the color of Lent and of penance. It is the color of our bruises, trials, and sufferings. It has another meaning , that color purple. It is the ancient color of royalty, the color of a king. It is the color of where we are, and the color of what we hope forth color of heaven, and of earth. The color of where we reside, and what we should desire. Advent is a transition. It marks the beginning of a journey.

 

feast of saint andrew

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feast of saint Andrew

Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.

Todays reading tells how quickly Andrew and Peter followed Jesus. During Advent can I compare their response to those that will be part of the nativity scene? How quickly the shepherds go to see the newborn King. How diligently and deliberately those magi follow that star that leads to a King in a manger.

the news of the first sunday of advent

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Advent starts today, and it is that season of joyful yet somber (or sober) preparation for the Nativity of our Lord. It also is a season of muted traditions that seems to be bypassed by many. In the churches the season is marked by purple vestments that hint towards Advent being a traditional season of penance, though a season much different from Lent. It is a season marked by occasional Advent wreaths, and also begins the season when Christmas lights and Nativity Scenes or crèches begin to appear. The gospel reading tell us to be vigilant . Anticipation, and warning are mentioned regarding that day which is to come, a day of judgement. Preparation and vigilance are needed. The gospel readings clearly set the tone for the season, they foretell the importance of the day to come. They give testament to the importance of Christmas.

But what about today, how do I approach that first candle. What is my vigilance? Am I alert? What is going on around me? I started this writing by telling that this is the season that many put up their Christmas lights and that Nativity scene’s begin to be assembled. One such Crèche was being erected out side a church in New York City, and that Crèche made the news. It also spoke volumes about Advent and Christmas. In the manger of that Nativity Scene a distraught mother placed her infant child. She knew no where else to place her faith and trust, so she placed it in that Nativity. All ended well, the child was discovered and the Nativity was declared a safe haven. The mother placed her faith in the same God that we are preparing to receive, and one can thank God that Crèche was there.

In another part of New York a similar story did not end so well. That story ended in tragedy, with an infants homicide discovered in a dumpster and a distraught, confused, bloodied mother charged with the death of her infant. So sad that a crèche was not prepared for her, that a community was not vigilant, and that faith and trust in Christ could not be found. Sober, vigilant preparation could have saved a life. This season is about vigilance, sobriety, and preparation. Advent is about preparing to receive a child, the Christ Child. Might Advent also be a fitting season to remember those who are receiving children, whether they are prepared or not?

The third story of this the first week of Advent had to do with a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic. In that tragedy there is the death of two fathers and an unnamed third person by a deranged and unstable drifter. In that story there is the compound tragedy of abortion, and the senseless actions of that deranged drifter. The Advent message of vigilance and preparation were missed in this story too.

All three stories took place on this the first weekend of Advent. All three stories involved receiving children. It was only the first story that had a positive outcome, and that story remarkably included the details of someone preparing a Nativity Scene. Sometimes being vigilant and alert can be as simple to reading a newspaper, and searching for where Christ can be found and where that Christ Child is needed.

Advent is about more that stringing lights, or shopping, or preparing for a celebration. It might include being vigilant and alert to our surroundings today, and preparing a ray of light for others. It might be about constructing a Crèche today to receive a child in the form of a Safe-Haven. It might be about helping people receive children in the way Christ preached with physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and even financial support. Advent doesn’t have to be an abstract season. Preparation to receive a child can be very real.

 

Saint Nicholas

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He hit him! He hit him square in the jaw! He was a bishop, and he threw a punch! He hit a heretic! He was Saint Nicholas, and he hit Arius during the first counsel of Nicaea in 325 for his belief that Christ was created by the Father, a belief known as the Arian heresy. He defended Christ as Christ is defined in the Nicene Creed, and that punch led him to be stripped of his office as bishop, and his pallium which is the garment the eastern rite bishops are identified with. I mention the pallium because it is so prominent in the many icons of this saint. He was restored to his office through the intersection of Mary, mother of God. Nicholas is a powerful figure, but he is known for even more than punching a fellow bishop. Nicholas is also known for his charity, and it is his charity that makes him so familiar at this time of year. His charity has been told through many stories that have been passed down through the centuries. One involves three women whose family did not have the financial means to pay their dowry, and without that dowry their fate was certain slavery. An anonymous donation by Saint Nick saved them from that fate. His dowry donation was by three bags of gold, and are one of the reasons oranges are a prominent feature of this season Much of this saints charity was done in secret. He truly lived that gospel he is frequently pictured with. The poor and children were often the benefactors of his kindness. If his defense of Christ at Nicaea, and his charity are enough to call him saint, Nicholas is also known for his miracles. One is his saving of some mariners from a tempest on the seas. It was when Nick was at Nicaea that a storm raged at sea. The sailors of the boat prayed to the Saint “If those things that we have heard of thee said be true, prove them now.” At once a man appeared to them saying “Lo! See ye me not? ye called me”, and then he began to help them at sea. When the ordeal at sea was over the sailors went to church, and there immediately recognized Saint Nick, though they had not known him before.

The centurion’s servant

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When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”

It is Advent, and any of the gospel readings at this time of year I can’t help but read against the backdrop of the season. When Jesus heals the centurions servant one of the first things that I notice today is that the centurion is likely a Roman. He is coming to Jesus so that one of his servants can be healed, and in doing so he mentions the number of people that he has authority over. In mentioning how many people he has authority over, he acknowledges also Jesus authority. Somehow in thinking of this scene, I envision a battlefield with that Centurion and his troops faced off against Jesus and those under his authority. The thing though is they are not standing at a battlefield with a battle about to begin, but rather it is that Centurion that is surrendering so that his servants, those under his authority, might be healed. In that surrendering that Roman leader recognizes something about his own society, and the illnesses of his culture. He also recognizes Jesus ability to bring healing to his people, and all people. By bringing healing to that Roman, Jesus gospel is not limited to one group of people, but extends to all mankind. His kingship is universal, and perhaps this reading also points back to that last Sunday of the year: Christ the King, a king of heaven and earth.