Our liturgical year begins with Advent. The word "advent" comes from the Latin root ad venire, and its translation, "coming to" or “to come” implies a journey. For the Church the word refers both to the coming of Christ in the flesh, the Incarnation, which began the messianic age, and to his coming in glory, when he will bring his work of redemption to its completion in the resurrection of the dead and then hand the perfected Kingdom over to the Father. Advent not only celebrates Christ’s journey to its completion, but also, our journey into the Incarnation. Advent is a season of preparation and expectation in anticipation of the coming of our Lord Jesus on the Last Day. The One who came by Bethlehem's crib and Calvary's cross, who comes to us now in Word and Holy Eucharist, is the One who is coming again in glory to raise us from the dead and give eternal life to all who believe in him. The incarnational life began when the Christ broke into our world. Coming down from heaven, Jesus was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. From the moment of his conception, the world has never been the same. The world can never go back to the state it was before Jesus entered our world in human flesh, for the world is forever marked by his Incarnation. The very same flesh and blood Jesus who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father continues to be present in the preaching of the Gospel and in the sacramental life of the Church.
Life itself is a journey from birth to death, and for the Christian, life is a pilgrimage from baptism to death, the entrance into eternity. In the waters of Holy Baptism the Christian gets death over with as he or she dies and is buried with Christ and is reborn to new life in Christ that never ends. It is in Baptism that the Christian, putting on Christ, enters the incarnational life. With the cross as our victory and suffering, we feed on Holy Words and eat Holy Food, spiritual and sacramental food that sustains us on our journey. The goal of our journey is to live in Christ’s presence forever and to feast at his table for eternity. The Christian pilgrimage is an incarnational life in Christ.
What does it mean to live an incarnational life in today’s world? To live incarnationally is to bear witness that Jesus Christ is present in our world through his salvific grace, through his holy word by which we are led to the truth, and through his flesh given to our flesh as food and as a sign of his presence among us. Our incarnational lives testify that Christ's presence in the world transforms the world, its people, and its creatures and makes all things new. Christ is present in the world through grace, through us, and he is present for the life of the world. So many people today are searching for something to fill and satisfy them. What they desperately seek, we already richly experience in our spiritual lives! The question those seekers who have not yet found Christ are really asking is, “How can I live the incarnational life?” Our response is in word and action, "We live Christ who lives in us!" And then they will ask, "What does this mean and how is it done?" And then we can invite them, "Come to St. Paul’s Church and receive the gifts of Christ's flesh in hearing the Gospel and feasting at his banquet. And then go out into the world and be what you have become in Christ!" This is the incarnational life! Fr. Al Jewson
“Give thanks with a joyful heart” is the opening verse to a praise song that I became familiar with through the Cursillo Movement and as Vicar of Good Shepherd Church in Springfield, Missouri. The message of this particular song is that God has given the greatest gift possible to us – Jesus Christ. The song goes on to say that now the poor are rich and the weak are strong because they possess wealth and power in Jesus. The text of the song follows this article.
Giving thanks is a theme that renews itself around this time each year. Soon we will begin preparations for Thanksgiving Day and then Christmas with all its celebration and solemnity. The Psalmist writes, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”(1) These next several weeks can be a whirlwind of rushing and activity or they can be a time of reflection and thanksgiving. How we choose to enter into these next weeks is a personal choice, and far too often I think that we get caught up in the commercialism of the season and forget about grateful thanks. Perhaps that is why the Church, in her wisdom, wants us to celebrate the Season of Advent right in the midst of the rush and bustle.
Thanksgiving Day began with the Plymouth Colonists as feast of celebration and thanks to God for the bountiful harvest. As the story of the first Thanksgiving goes, in spite of the harsh conditions in which they lived, the early English settlers took time to gather in community with native Americans and give thanks with a grateful heart for all that God had given them. It ultimately became a national holiday and is celebrated in the United States and in Canada. Rather than viewing this celebration and its weekend as a holiday, perhaps we should begin to view it as a holyday – a time for worship, thanks, and praise for all of the bounty God has bestowed on each of us.
We truly live in the abundance of God’s love, grace, and mercy. God has given us the greatest gift of all in Jesus Christ. We have been blessed with gifts and talents from the Holy Spirit. We have each other. In my opinion we are truly blessed!
As we begin our preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas, let’s make sure we take time for reflection and thanksgiving acknowledging the goodness and blessings God has given us. “Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving.” (2)
Father Al Jewson
Give Thanks with a Joyful Heart
Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One;
Give thanks because He's
given Jesus Christ, His Son.
And now let the weak say, "I am Strong,"
Let the poor say, "I am rich"
Because of what the Lord has
done ... for us. Give thanks.(3)
1. Psalm 95:2, New Revised Standard Version.
2. Psalm 147:7, Ibid.
3. Henry Smith
Our church’s members are saddling up and riding fast in our Pony Express Financial stewardship campaign.
On Sunday, during announcement time, “Pony Express Rider” Kim Boelling rode her pony up the aisle of the church, captivating those present with her prowess in handling her pony and demonstrating to all the workings of the Saddlebags. Trail Bosses and members were on hand last Sunday for a Pot-luck Breakfast and that same afternoon, Trail Bosses began the circulation of the Saddlebags. Kim says Trail Bosses report most families are relaying the Bags within 24 hours after they get them, just as requested.
A progress report will be given during announcement time this coming Sunday.
Our General Managers say that members of our church seem pleased to fill in cards on which they “estimate” their giving, instead of signing pledge cards.
If the Saddlebag has not yet reached your home, please be patient. It should arrive in the next few days! When it does come to you, please act quickly in filling in your Estimate Card and passing the Saddlebag on to the next family listed on the Bag strap.
You who are parents of youth and elementary age children are requested to encourage them to filling their own estimates of giving. Cards for them will be found in your envelope in the Saddlebag. Let’s help these young persons establish now the spiritual habit of definite and regular giving – with the prayer that this practice will continue throughout their lives.
~ Fr. Al Jewson
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, gives his reflections on Advent: "It is a time of expectation and a time of hope. A time, therefore, also of quiet".
St. Paul’s Church Pony Express RUN gets underway this coming Sunday, November 12. At Announcement time following our 10:00a.m. Holy Eucharist, Kim Boelling, one of our General Managers, will demonstrate how to use the Saddlebag and relay it to the next home. During the Pony Express Pot-luck Breakfast which follows immediately after our late worship service, the Trail Bosses will be commissioned.
The relay of the Saddlebags among our mobile members will begin early Sunday afternoon. Each Saddlebag bears the names and addresses of the families/individuals in a given geographical area, who become Route Riders in that area.
When you receive the Saddlebag, take time to read the Scripture text, prayers and other material inside your enclosure envelope, then fill out the Estimate of Giving Card, seal it in your enclosure envelope, insert in the Saddlebag pouch, and then hand-carry the Bag to an adult member of the family whose name appears below your own on the Route List attached to the Bag strap.
We urge you to use and relay the Saddlebag within 24 hours after it is handed to you.
The teamwork necessary for the Pony express RUN to be a success is similar to that of the Pony Express of more than a century ago. Each rider knew he could count on the next rider to relay the mail (in our case, “church” mail) to its next destination.
We are grateful to those members who have agreed to serve as our Trail Bosses and help supervise the relay of the Saddlebags. Each Trail Boss will oversee the Route Riders in his/her area.
A spirit of friendly competition is likely to arise among our Trail Bosses, with each eager to see that his or her Route “run” is completed first.
Attend this coming Sunday morning to participate in the official start of the PONY EXPRESS RUN.
Father Al Jewson
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.