Thursday, December 19, 2013


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

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas in a few days, we do well to remember that what we celebrate, in addition to the birth of Jesus, is the mystery of the Incarnation. It's not a "who done it" mystery. It's a mystery in the sense that there is no way for us to explain it completely or understand it fully. God became one of us. God took on our flesh, our nature and our lot and became human in Jesus the Christ.

The Incarnation sometimes is too easily limited to the Nativity of our Lord. Indeed the entire life, experience, suffering, sacrifice and death of Christ are also included in what it means to "take on" you and me.

As the Church, we are Christ's body. How do we incarnate here and now? How do we "take on" our community, our society?  Clearly Jesus' goal was not to blend in and go along.  He was on a mission to reconcile, bless and transform. How are we doing with that mission which has been entrusted to us?

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Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2013
10:00 AM
Choir Cantata and Holy Communion

The Nativity of Our Lord
Christmas Eve
8:00 PM
(Prelude music begins approximately at 7:30 PM)

The First Sunday of Christmas
December 29, 2013, 10:00 AM
Service of Lessons and Carols

The Epiphany of Our Lord
Monday, January 6, 2014, 7:00 PM
Evening Prayer (Vespers)

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Here is something to enjoy and share.  (How is this a depiction of what it means to be incarnational?)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Waiting for Another?

Have you ever lived with great expectations? Do you see the way things are and, in contrast, sometimes envision the way things could be? Do you wish they could improve or be changed? If you have, you know frustration. 

Being optimistic can be hard work. Getting our hopes up, we sometimes learn in life, is risky business. The risk is that we will be disappointed. Nobody likes to be disappointed. What happens as a result, more often than not, is that we are slowly conditioned to modify our expectations. We lower the bar . . . or remove it all together. When so little is expected, there is much less room for disappointment. It's easier all around. We learn this attitude. Sometimes, I suspect, we even foster it. What do you think?

One of the themes of the season of Advent is that of hope. Paul reminds us that hope does not disappoint us!  Here it is in context:
[W]e also boast our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. that has been given to us.   (Romans 5:3-5)
The readings for this Sunday get at some pretty exciting and wonderful notions of what God has in mind. Take some time to read these passages listed and sited below. Here are some questions for consideration:
  • Do you think the vision is unrealistic? 
  • Do you think the expectations are too high? 
  • Where do those promises play out in our lives? 
  • How are we called to join in this process of transformation?

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool
and the thirsty ground springs of water. (Isaiah 35:5-7)

John the Baptist in Prison Receives Christ's Answer
(Matthew 11:2-6)
Samuel van Hoogstrateten (1627-1678)

Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. (Matthew 11:4-5)

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Third Sunday of Advent
December 15, 2013

Prayer of the Day
Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God, 
and strengthen our faith in your coming, 
that transformed by grace, we may walk in your way; 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.  Amen

Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 146:5-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11

Don't forget to invite someone to come along to worship this Sunday morning. Your participation in extending God's welcome could make all the difference in someone's life . . . including your own.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Get to the Point!

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who goes on and on and can never seem to get to the point? Perhaps the intention was to tell you about something that happened over the last weekend, but what ends up happening is that your friend is reminded, by their own recounting, of something else. So they begin to talk about that something else. This, of course reminds them of something else. And so, they tell you about that as well. And, oh that's right, there was this thing that happened last weekend.

Maybe you're reading this right now and wondering if I'll ever get to the point with this week's blog post. Well, here it is:  Jesus. Of course.  We all know that Jesus is the point, that Jesus is the "reason for the season" and so on. I suspect that if I took a vote (and I'm not, won't, mustn't, can't) it would be near unanimous that Jesus is the point. Yet, Jesus is so much more than the reason for the season. Either he is everything or nothing! 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

Take a look at this image of John the Baptist painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. John looks youthful. (He's sporting a beautiful head of hair.) He is oddly dressed and shown embracing a cross in one hand while pointing beyond himself with the other. John is not the point. And he knows it. His role is to direct our attention toward Jesus and to call us to get ready, to repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

File:St John the baptist - Leonardo Da Vinci.jpg

St. John the Baptist, Leonardo Da Vinci  (1452-1519)

Here below is a detail from Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Alterpiece. Look at that index finger. Try pointing like that for a moment. Seriously, try it. It's no casual gesture. Feel it. It takes stamina to persist. 

detail of the Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald, (c. 1470-1528)

In the larger context of the altarpiece, what this figure of John the baptist is pointing toward is Christ being crucified on the cross. The inscription above John's bent arm is Illum oportet crescere me autem minui "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Gospel of John 3:30)

By now you are well aware that we are hip deep in the season of Advent. During this brief season we watch, wait, hope, and prepare for Christ's coming in many and various ways. The point, Jesus, wishes to come into our lives. . . not to be a knickknack on the side-table, but to be the central life-giving power in our midst. The Kingdom of heaven has come near. God is already taking the initiative to accomplish our salvation, to prepare our hearts, and fill us with hope in the midst of despair and all that seems to confound our best efforts.

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Second Sunday of Advent
December 8, 2013

Prayer of the Day
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. 
By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace; 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.  Amen

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

Extra points!  (Not really) For which reading Sunday is this image an illustration?