Let me remind you that because Christmas falls on a Sunday this year our Christmas and New Year worship services will be a little different. The annual Christmas Eve candle service will be held this Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m., but there will be no worship service on Sunday (Christmas) morning. Then on New Year’s day, Sunday, January 1, a small and informal worship gathering will be held at 10:00 a.m. in the Fireplace Room under Ted Hardgrove’s leadership, but Holy Communion will be deferred until regular worship back in the Sanctuary on January 8.
Our Christmas Eve service will be a little different this year as a traditional Nine Lessons and Carols service, with the scripture readings by me and seven members of the congregation, and musical leadership from our familiar friends harpist Gian Torrano-Jacobs and organist Martin Jones. This will be the same Christmas Eve service being celebrated around the world, perhaps most notably by the choir and organ in the King’s College Chapel of Cambridge University, England. (One difference being that we will not be including special prayers for either Queen Elizabeth II or her predecessor and founder of both King’s College and the Church of England, King Henry the Eighth. Our prayers will be a bit more expansive than that!)
This year I have been thinking more critically and questioningly than before about the meaning of Advent. Especially in my mind as your Interim Minister is what that might mean for a congregation like ours in the midst of re-examining and renewing its identity in the process of calling a new pastor.
Advent as a season of the church year originally had little to do with the birth of Jesus, but rather was more a celebration of the anticipated second coming of Christ. The very word “advent” which means “to come to” referred not to the birth but rather to the return of Jesus. Over time it got broadened out into a celebration of the very gift of God godself “coming to” humankind in Jesus of Nazareth, as the gift of Incarnation, the Christ of God.
Oddly enough in our modern church culture which often decries the “commercialization” and “secularization” of Christmas, the practice of gift-giving is probably the most authentically theological aspect of the whole business (minus the profit motive, of course)!
I know it sounds a bit scandalous even to suggest that the birth of Jesus part in and of itself is of relatively little interest to the core meaning of Advent. But you do have to notice that two of the four Gospel writers and St. Paul himself do not even mention Jesus’ birth! I’ve written here before, with indebtedness to theologian Douglas John Hall, of the Christian’s “in the world but not of it” position, and the call for us to “disestablish ourselves” from the dominance of our surrounding culture which we “live in” but are “not of,” in biblical terms.
I find myself wondering whether one important step in doing that might be to refocus on the dominant meaning of Advent as the whole gift in and of itself of God’s coming to the world in Jesus. In other words, would it be more faithful to pay less attention to the nativity of Jesus in favor of the larger significance of the giftedness of God in Jesus, and what that calls for in response from us?
Food for thought, I hope. I wish you a blessed, merry, and richly “gifted” Christmas.
Saturday, December, 24, 2016, 7:00 P.M. - Christmas Eve at Christ Congregation. Nine Lessons and Carols - A Holiday Worship Service. Please join us, all are welcome.
Please remember to take home your already purchased poinsettias. Sunday, December 25, 2016 - Merry Christmas! There is no worship service.
Sunday morning worship will resume in the new year, January 1, 2017.
Sunday, January 8, 2017 - Celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Looking Ahead - The next meeting of the Christ Congregation Book Club will be January 28, 2017. The book is Rooster Street: Legacy of a Runaway Slave. It's a good book about the Underground Railroad written by Janet Purcell, a resident of Hopewell, NJ. Time and location will be announced at a later date.
To submit announcements and suggestions to be included in the CC Newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday each week.
The Rev. Dr. J. Randall Nichols, Interim Minister
Joanne Hardgrove, Organist-Choir Director
Brandi Grove, Church Secretary
Rebecca Fransisco, Seminary Intern
The Rev. Jeffrey Mays, Pastor Emeritus
Office Hours: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.