Light in the Darkness
The Names of the Messiah
Advent / Christmas Calendar
Lives of Generosity
Report from the Diocesan Council
The Work of Christmas
Light in the Darkness
On the first Sunday of Advent, the first day of the church year, we began worship with this prayer: “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Advent could well be called the season of darkness.
This time of year I find myself thinking of the dark, both literally and figuratively. Literally, we know that the days are growing shorter. It may well be dark when we leave the house in the morning and dark when we arrive home at night.
I don’t like the long hours of darkness much, but I know they are short lived. It is the figurative darkness that concerns me.
This year may seem darker than usual to many, but the truth is we are always called to cast away the works of darkness. Advent and Christmas remind us that even in the darkest of times we are not alone.
We symbolize that with the Advent wreath, growing in light each week. The song we sing as we light the candles gives us a hint of how we can put on the armor of light that casts away the works of darkness.
The first candle symbolizes faith. The kind of faith that casts out darkness is not subscribing to certain dogmas or a list of things in which one must believe. It is an active faith, grounded in the knowledge of God’s interactions with the world throughout history.
Even a cursory reading of scripture belies the notion that faith has nothing to do with politics. Biblical faith is a political faith, the story of a God who is concerned about the way power is used and abused, and how society’s most vulnerable are treated.
A God who liberates people from slavery is a political God.
This kind of faith was at the heart of the Civil Rights movement. The foot soldiers who faced the evil of white supremacy in Selma knew scripture inside and out.
They knew how God had liberated God’s people in the past, and they knew without a doubt that same God was with them in the present.
Faith gave them courage to confront the darkness.
The second candle symbolizes hope. I heard a powerful story of hope this week from a Muslim woman in Los Angeles, whose mosque has been a target of vandalism and threats of violence.
For the last several weeks when the congregation has gathered for Friday prayers, they have been greeted by people of other religious traditions encircling the mosque, holding signs that say, “We are here to protect you.”
Those people gave the members of this mosque hope. Hope is contagious. It gives us courage to face the darkness, knowing we are not alone.
The wreath’s third candle symbolizes joy. That may seem a stretch. Joy in the face of fear and darkness? But that is the story of Mary, who shows us joy in uncertain times.
We often forget how fearful Mary must have been at the news that she would bear the Messiah. Everything in her life changes in an instant.
Young, unmarried, unexpectedly pregnant. Surely she must have been anxious and worried. Would she become the subject of gossip, or even worse, an outcast?
But Mary does not give into fear. Instead she bursts into a song of joy, praising a God who brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly.
Mary’s joy gives her courage to face the uncertainty ahead of her.
The fourth candle of Advent symbolizes love. Biblical love is not an emotion. It is active, an embodiment of faith. It is a love that stands up to evil. A love in solidarity with those on the margins. A love that is not silent in the face of injustice. A love that defeats hate.
Love gives us the courage to face the darkness, knowing that the God of love is with us .
This Advent we pray that God will give us faith. Give us hope. Give us joy and love.
Give us the grace to cast away the works of darkness, whenever and where ever they occur.
The Names of the Messiah
Adult Sunday School during Advent will discuss the “Names of the Messiah,” drawn from the famous Isaiah text:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The prophet Isaiah is the major biblical text for Advent since from this text the earliest Christians interpreted, identified, and named Jesus as the Messiah. Our oldest complete biblical manuscript is a scroll of Isaiah found in the 1940s, and believed to be contemporaneous with the time of Jesus.
Joe Monti will be leading the discussion on this important Advent text. Classes meet at 9:30 a.m. in the Founders’ Room.
Refugee Resettlement Meeting
One of the great concerns after the recent election is the impact it will have on refugees and immigrants. Two refugee service agencies have organized a faith partner session to discuss the impact of the election on refugee resettlement.
The meeting will be held Tuesday, December 6, from 6:30-8 p.m. at All Saints Episcopal Church at 634 West Peachtree St. The Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies and New American Pathways issued this invitation to the meeting:
“Throughout our history, communities of faith in the U.S. have offered their time, talent and treasure to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people could rebuild their lives.
“It is America’s faith communities that advocated for welcoming refugees in the aftermath of World War II, helped design the modern refugee resettlement program and kept the program alive in the aftermath of 9/11. Once again we need your voice to ensure that the program continues to serve the world’s most vulnerable people.
“We will discuss the global refugee crisis, the potential risks to the program and what actions faith communities can take to advocate for and support refugees in Georgia.”
Advent / Christmas Calendar
It’s a busy month at St. Dunstan’s. Mark these dates on your calendar now.
Saturday, December 3 – A Day of Advent Reflection: Saying Yes to God. Join with clergy and laity from St. Dunstan’s, St. Anne’s, Holy Innocents, and St. Patrick’s for this Advent quiet day at St. Dunstan’s from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Bring your own lunch. $10 fee for materials.
Sunday, December 11 – Advent Lessons and Carols at 4 p.m. Come enjoy the music and the stories of the season in one of the most beautiful services of the year.
Sunday, December 18 – ONE SERVICE THIS DAY. Come at 10 a.m. for the Christmas pageant, followed by the 10:45 service with Bishop Whitmore presiding and preaching. After the service is a reception honoring Keith and Suzie Whitmore. This will be their last visit to St. Dunstan’s before Keith’s retirement at the end of the year.
Saturday, December 24 – The Christmas Eve liturgy begins at 5 p.m. Special music begins at 4:30. Last year the church was full for this service, so come early to hear the music and get a seat.
Sunday, December 25 – Christmas Day Eucharist at 10 a.m. (One service this day.)
Sunday, January 1 – Christmas Lessons and Carols and Blessing of the Watches and Calendars at 10 a.m. (One service this day).
Lives of Generosity
Dorothy and Charlie Yates were mainstays of St. Dunstan’s for many years. After Charlie’s death in 2005, Dorothy remained active in many areas of parish life until her death last December.
Dorothy and Charlie’s impact on the parish continues with a very generous bequest from their estate. The vast majority of their gift will go into our savings.
The vestry has also agreed to use a small portion of the money for three things that have been on our “wish list,” which seem like appropriate ways to honor Dorothy and Charlie.
The first is the redesign of our website. Dorothy was always concerned about attracting new people to the parish. Since most of our visitors find us through the website, we felt that was an appropriate use of a portion of the bequest. If you haven’t seen the site yet, check it out at www.stdunstan.net.
The second use is for new choir robes, which made their debut the first Sunday of Advent. Dorothy and Charlie were both avid supporters of the choir.
The third use is for a new baptismal font, made by the same artisans who made our new altar, lectern, and shelves. We are currently working on design with artists Timothy Sutherland and Timera Temple. The font should be ready by spring.
Although the bequest came with no strings attached, we have let Dorothy and Charlie’s four children know of how we are using the gift, and they wholeheartedly approve. We are deeply grateful for their generosity.
We pray for longtime parishioner Bill Pruett, stepfather of Sarah Hancock, who died on November 19. His funeral will be at St. Dunstan’s at 10 a.m., Saturday, December 17.
Here are a few notes about our morning musical offerings during Advent:
Advent 2 – “When came in flesh,” a haunting, spare anthem for Advent by the English composer George Guest. Susan Howard and Joseph Henry Monti have solos.
Advent 3 – “Out of the wintry gloom,” an Advent message of hope in a musical setting by the contemporary English composer Richard Shephard. At the opening voluntary, Susan Howard will sing Messiah excerpts: “Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened…, He shall feed his flock like a shepherd…, Come unto him, all ye that labor….”
Advent 4 – “Balulalow,” a gentle lullaby by Benjamin Britten from his Ceremony of Carols.” At the opening voluntary, Alexander Changus will play an arrangement for oboe of the carol tune, “Dost thou in a manger lie?”
I am particularly pleased with the way our Advent Lessons and Carols service (December 11 at 4 p.m.) has come together. Steven Schneider will be here to play the organ, and the music will include:
- An anthem by the contemporary American organist, composer, and arranger, Wayne Wold. Sung by St. Dunstan’s Youth Ensemble, this anthem is a traditional Yiddish folk tune combined with words from Isaiah 40.
- A setting of a poem by the 18th century poet Christopher Smart, “Where is this stupendous stranger.” Our Youth Ensemble will be joined by the Parish Choir for this piece. This text, also in the Hymnal 1982, No. 491, is particularly appropriate for the season of Advent.
- Two very different anthem settings of Isaiah 35:1-10. One of these, “Springs in the Desert,” by Arthur B. Jennings, is traditional, with a range of expression moving from smoothly flowing springs to dramatic declaration of “a highway!” and back to a comforting “…sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
- The other, “Where Once There Lay Dragons,” by Kenton Coe, is upbeat, jazzy, and full of syncopations. In order to make sense out of these “dragons,” we will read the King James Version of the Isaiah passage: “And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” Judy Guard, our resident pianist, will accompany.
- A German folk song arrangement by Hugo Distler (German, anti-Nazi, war-time composer); a setting of the Canticle of Zechariah; an anthem by Palestrina; Advent hymns and organ music.
Thanks to Elizabeth Wong Mark, Mark O’Connell, Mary Hunter Rouse, and Lori Westphal for coordinating the making of Advent wreaths. And thanks to Connor Mark, Alexander Changus, Quinn Changus, and Joseph Henry Monti for portraying the biblical characters who explained the meaning of each candle.
Thanks to Keith and Harrison Latimore for doing major repair work on the tool shed behind the church.
Thanks to Sue Martz, Daria Jones, and Sallie Smith for hemming the new choir robes.
We offer condolences to Jim and Christine Bird on the death of Jim’s brother, Murphy Bird.
Report from the Diocesan Council
The annual council of the Diocese of Atlanta met in College Park on November 18 and 19. Charis Bowling and Jeanne Taylor, along with Maggie and Tricia, represented St. Dunstan’s at the diocesan-wide event.
The week before council our delegation and vestry unanimously approved to submit a resolution in the aftermath of the presidential election. Our resolution read as follows:
Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, meeting in College Park, Georgia on November 18 and 19, 2016, rejects the rhetoric of extreme bigotry of all kinds exhibited in the recent presidential campaign.
Resolved, that the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta calls on President-elect Donald Trump and his administration to affirm the principles of basic human decency and our constitutional democracy.
The resolution was referred to the Committee on Community Ministries for discussion. After spirited discussion, the resolution was amended to take out all references to the presidential campaign or the president elect.
At that point, Tricia told the committee that such a watered down resolution was not meaningful and should not be recommended to the whole council. The committee agreed, and voted not to recommend the resolution.
However, the next day a substitute resolution, written by All Saints’ parishioner Bruce Garner (in consultation with Tricia) was presented to the council.
After about two hours of debate, amendments, and additions, the following resulting resolution was passed with a majority vote by the Council:
Resolved, the Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, meeting in College Park, Georgia, on November 18 and 19, 2016, notes that we, as Episcopalians, are continually striving to aspire to the vows of our Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being, as well as to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and be it further
Resolved that language was often used in the most recent election cycle that demeaned and denigrated the children of God on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, disability, national origin, income and political viewpoint, and be it further
Resolved that such language is abhorrent to the vows of our Baptismal Covenant, and be it further
Resolved that this Council urge lawmakers, politicians, and policy makers at all levels of government, and all political parties, to refrain from using language that in any way denigrates, demeans, abuses, or damages any members of the human rainbow of diversity in God’s creation, and be it further
Resolved that we call our leaders to commit themselves to listen deeply and openly to the many voices of our country, and be it further
Resolved, that the Secretary of Council shall be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the President, the President-elect, the leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States, as well as to the Governor, Lt. Governor, and the leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate of the state of Georgia.
All members of the St. Dunstan’s delegation voted for the substitute resolution because we support and approve of all of the sentiments expressed in it.
However, we cannot help regretting, among other things, that the Council found it necessary to avoid being direct about the fact that we were concerned about the abhorrent rhetoric specifically of the presidential election campaign of 2015-2016 and that we wanted to appeal directly to the incoming president and administration to respect, both in language and actions, the dignity of ALL people in the future.
— Charis Bowling and Jeanne Taylor
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
— By Howard Thurman