Our King and Savior draweth nigh.
I don’t know what other Christians in our area did today, but we did our bit to reset the month of December properly in the anticipation found in Advent. Average crowd at the masses (around 307, I think), but not the overwhelming December crush of people that rectors dream about instead of sugarplums. I think it’s harder every year to “do church.” When I first started parish ministry (ahem, 19 years ago), people would come to church just because you unlocked the door. A bit of an exaggeration, but the point is there. Two decades later our culture, yea, even Southern Culture, no longer supports, let along promotes, life schedules that are grounded in the practices of faith.
But here we stand, or rather, here we kneel. In the midst of Santa Claus, Rudolph, and Free Shipping, we await our King and Savior.
We had five at the shelter on our first night – one came late. They were all gone when I arrived at 6:40am. The lights in the parish hall were all off, resting until they’ll be turned back in just a little while.
I do love our violet vestments for this season. Made by Mr. Luzar in England, it’s a heavy Roman cut. As this is the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, I made some tweaks to our liturgy, slowly but surely adapting based on practicality and personnel. We finally removed the crucifer from the Gospel procession, properly keeping the focus on the Gospel Book as the icon of Jesus Christ. The homily was a bit of a risk, although they never come out nearly as risky as I imagine them. I preached on the Advent themes of judgment and hell, not deeply, but directly. Between the 9am Low Mass and 11am Sung Mass, we had our monthly parish breakfast, this time couple with an Advent Wreath workshop.
After the masses, we had an information meeting for our Holy Land Pilgrimage next July. 29 of us will be walking in the footsteps of Our Lord. This will be the second pilgrimage I’ve led here, and the first to Israel. I was last in the Holy Land 20 years ago. I’m sure the landscape hasn’t changed, but I know I have. I’m very much looking forward to this trip. One of my dreams is to be the Rick Steves of Ecclesiastical Travel. Can’t you see me on the Travel Channel with a film crew visiting all the amazing holy sites in Christendom? If you can’t, I’m doing it for you.
Advent Lessons and Carols finished the evening. A couple hundred souls came to hear the readings and anthems and carols. Following a Lessons and Carols used at Salisbury Cathedral, we included the Greater Antiphons before 8 sets of readings. My youngest son, Luke, helped light the Advent Wreath. The choir did amazing, as they always do. It’s one of the few liturgies where I have very little to do but sit back, close my eyes, and let the choir do the heavy lifting.
The highlight of Lessons and Carols was the reading by Mrs. Catherine. Her story is extraordinary. Several years ago she had a massive stroke. I remember being with her at the hospital and the doctor telling her husband that she might have a working vocabulary of 7-10 words. In the years that have passed she has worked so very hard to prove the doctors wrong, something I’m certain they are happy to concede. Her vocabulary has to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. Along with her husband, she read a lesson from one of the sets. This is the second time she has read a lesson since her stroke. The Lord will open our lips and regardless of what we think of our ‘performance,’ our mouth will show forth his praise.