Waiting for God
Anyone with children knows that waiting is not a very popular activity. The truth is, it’s not just children who find waiting difficult. Our whole culture seems averse to the idea of waiting for anything. If it is worth having, we want it now.
This time of year waiting seems even more difficult than usual. And yet, it is in this very time of year, when the world rushes even faster around us, that the Church calls us to wait quietly for the coming of God.
Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen wrote that waiting is even more difficult when we are fearful. “One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear,” he wrote. “People are afraid – afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, afraid of the future.
“Fearful people have a hard time waiting because when we are afraid we want to get away from where we are. Many of our destructive acts come from the fear that something harmful will happen to us. People who live in a world of fear are more likely to make aggressive, hostile, destructive responses than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes.”
Our Advent stories in scripture are all about people who are waiting. The people of Israel are waiting for the kingdom of God, for the day when the lion lies down with the lamb. Zechariah and Elizabeth are waiting for the birth of John. Mary is waiting for the birth of Jesus. Simeon and Anna are waiting to see the Messiah.
All of them in, in some way or another, are told “Do not be afraid.”
All of these scriptural figures are waiting with a sense of promise. They know that a seed has been planted; they have faith that the promise they have received will come to fulfillment in due time.
They engage in what Nouwen calls “active waiting.” Active waiting means “to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waiting person is a patient person, Nouwen adds. “Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present.”
Scripture offers another model for waiting – that we wait together. When Mary receives the words of promise that she will bear the Messiah, she immediately goes to her cousin Elizabeth, who has also received the promise of new birth. They wait together and affirm one another.
“I think that is the model of Christian community,” Nouwen writes. “It is a community of support, celebration, and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us. The visit of Mary and Elizabeth is one of the Bible’s most beautiful expressions of what it means to form a community, to be together, gathered around a promise, affirming that something is really happening.
“The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for that which we have already seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously; so that it can grow and become stronger in us.
“In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness.
“That is how we dare to say that God is a God of love even when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us.
“We say it together. We affirm it in one another. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment – that is the meaning of friendship, community, and the Christian life.”
As we begin this new Church year with the season of waiting, I invite you to do so with your Christian community of St. Dunstan’s. Every Sunday morning we gather together to hear the promise, to keep the flame alive and growing, to give each other strength and courage, to share our joys and sorrows.
Come wait with us.
Christmas Eve Service
There is a change to our Christmas Eve schedule this year. For the past several years we have seen a trend in Christmas Eve attendance. The “early” service has grown every year, while the “late” service has declined. Last year, for about the third year, there were less than a handful of people at the 11 p.m. service who had not also been at the 5 p.m. service.
Overall, our Christmas Eve attendance has grown every year, but it is the early service to which people are coming.
After consultation with the vestry I’ve decided that this year we will have only one service on Christmas Eve. Special music will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the liturgy will begin at 5.
We are not alone in this trend. When I was growing up the late service on Christmas Eve was the largest service. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to go to that service. There was something magical about being in church at midnight.
But times change. Larger churches and downtown churches still see crowds at that late service, although not as large as they once were. But in talking to my clergy colleagues I was surprised to learn how many of them had already quit having the late Christmas Eve service.
I look forward to a packed house Christmas Eve evening!
Congratulations to Jennifer Cline on her baptism on November 1.
Holiday Season Calendar
Sunday, December 6 – Bishop Whitmore will be with us. He will teach Sunday School at 9:30 a.m.; preach, celebrate and confirm 10 parishioners at 10:45. There will be a special reception following the service in honor of the confirmands and the bishop. NOTE: Only one service this day.
Sunday, December 13, 4 p.m. – Advent Lessons and Carols, followed by a reception celebrating the marriage of Tom Gibbs and Steven Schneider.
Tuesday, December 15 – All gifts for Emmaus House must be brought to church by 9 a.m. this day.
Sunday, December 20, 9:30 a.m. – The annual Christmas pageant and carol sing-along. Children participating in the pageant are requested to be here by 9:15 to get their costumes.
Sunday, December 24, 4:30 p.m. – Christmas Eve Eucharist. Special music begins at 4:30 p.m. The liturgy begins at 5 p.m.
Sunday, December 27, 10 a.m. – Christmas Lessons and Carols. NOTE: Only one service this day.
Wednesday, December 30, 6 p.m. – Serve dinner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.
Sunday, January 3, 10 a.m. – Only one service this day. Service will include blessing of the watches and calendars.
For the past few months a dedicated group of parishioners has been working hard to reimagine how we do Christian Education, particularly for our children and youth. We saw the first fruits of their work the first Sunday in Advent with the fabulous Advent wreath making, complete with visits from Sarah, Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary.
The committee is planning a parish-wide event for each season of the church year. We’ll be hearing more about their plans later this month, but they ask that you mark these dates on your calendar. You won’t want to miss them!
Epiphany season – January 10
Lenten season – February 21
Easter season – April 24
Pentecost – May 15
Pledge Cards Due!
Thanks to everyone who has turned in their 2016 pledge cards. If you haven’t turned yours in yet, please do so as soon as you can. Those who haven’t may expect a friendly phone call from a stewardship committee member.
Here are a few notes on special music for Sunday mornings in Advent. All the pieces are by living composers:
Advent 2 – “Out of the wintry gloom of night,” by Richard Shephard is a quiet, lyrical anthem whose text articulates the Advent theme of light overcoming darkness. The prelude music will be sung by tenor soloist Joseph Henry Monti.
Advent 3 – Joel Martinson gives part of the reading from Phillipians (“Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say, rejoice!”) a rhythmic, energetic setting.
Advent 4 – Mark Schweizer says that his arrangement of “Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates” is based on a traditional Irish fiddle tune. Martha Woodruff will be on hand to add the Irish fiddle music.
Our upcoming Lessons and Carols for Advent has two kinds of vocal music. First, there are the eight congregational hymns in arrangements by J. S. Bach and accompanied by organ and orchestra. Second, there is the Cantata, No. 61 in Bach’s catalog of cantatas, a work that is Bach’s way of announcing the new church year while at the same time heralding the coming, the Advent, of Christ. Please come and hear this amazing music, plus special organ music for Advent played by Steven Schneider, on Sunday afternoon, December 13, beginning at 4 p.m. The service will include the traditional Advent readings, with the music of J. S. Bach interspersed throughout.
Christmas Flowers and Music
Envelopes are available in the pews for special donations for Christmas flowers and music. Please return the envelopes to the parish office by Monday, December 21, for inclusion in the Christmas Eve service bulletins.
Emmaus House Christmas
Looking for a way to help others this Christmas season? Once again we are sponsoring families for Christmas through Emmaus House, an Episcopal ministry to families in the area surrounding Turner Field, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
We are sponsoring six families this year. A list of all the requested gifts is on the wall in the parish hall. There are still seven gift slots open, plus a need for $50 gift cards from Walmart and Target.
All gifts must be wrapped, tagged, and returned to the church by 9 a.m. on Tuesday, December 15 so that they can be delivered to Emmaus House.
Thanks to Michelle Mundth and Michele Smither for coordinating this project.
Holy Comforter Dinner
We are scheduled to serve dinner to the parishioners of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church on Wednesday, December 30 at 6 p.m. Holy Comforter is a parish with a ministry to people with mental handicaps. Different Episcopal churches in the area take turns providing dinner for them on Wednesday evenings. Check the narthex for sign up sheets to cook and serve dinner. It is a wonderful way to stay in the Christmas spirit!
You gave your all to the world
in the bleakness of that stable.
Love was born that day
Poured out for all
who call on Your name
deserves a response
in the life that we lead.
Forgive our ingratitude
for all you have done,
draw us to your Word,
give us a new song to sing,
that will resonate throughout this world.
And begin with us today. Amen