December 14th, 2016 by Christopher Caudle
Originally sent to parish via email on December 9, 2016
I asked the clerk at the checkout if a lot of Christmas had been passing by her register.
"Yes", she said. "Lots of presents, and wrapping paper, and good food."
I asked if she had finished her own shopping, after seeing so many gift ideas and examples of getting the job done pass through her line at Register 16.
"No. I'm just watching it go past, one beep at a time."
The Advent invitation is for us to step into the season of Christmas before its arrival. To hear in the words of the Prophets, John the Baptist and Mother Mary a call to join in the movement towards the crèche. To be more than just a witness, but also a participant. To not simply let the beeps go bye.
The lady at the register has good reasons to have an incomplete list of shopping and preparation. She is working, serving others. And she was noting intently how others were preparing. We each have our own favorite reasons to stand back as well.
How do we take the next step? What does it feel like to move from a place of observant witness to active participant in this most marvelous and miraculous birthday celebration of all time?
First, we observe that we are witnessing a call to join in. The prophets call us to hope, the Baptist calls us to prepare, Mother Mary calls us to remember that "The one who is coming," (in Fr. Gabriel's magnificent sermon from Advent 01) "is Coming to me and is Coming for me." This Advent call tells us that salvation is coming towards us in history, in life, in decision. We will meet it, ready or not.
Second, we observe that those who shared in the first advent of Christ, like those who will be filled with joy at the final advent of Christ, are those who are moving in light of the good news that has reached them. Mary and Joseph's public and private response to heavenly heralds and holy dreams, Elizabeth's (and John's) response to the presence of the incarnating Lord under her roof, the trek to Bethlehem, the shepherds' journeys, angels dispatched with oracle and song, Magi (patiently waiting for Epiphany-tide) and all the others who heard and hoped that Messiah's arrival would be in their day. Or in the days of their children and for the sake of the world. Likewise, we also move towards this coming advent with acts of service, trust, eating and praying that connect our daily living with eternal promises.
Supernatural grace sanctifying mundane spaces. Glorious routines of fidelity and hospitality.
"The King is coming" fills every task with dignity and expectation. Then. And now.
This is one reason it is so great to see you all greet new friends at Fezziwig's, hear you help your children learn the songs for the Christmas pageant next weekend, select gifts with prayerful revelry and generous service for refugee families and go about the usual seasonal opportunities with faith and expectation. It moves you into participation. Big leaps, small steps, all welcome.
One way you can continue to participate is by praying for Charlotte Louise Blackston, who will be baptized this Sunday. This little one has already been the object and recipient of many, many answered prayers. And like our other recent baptisms; Alise, Avery, Cameron, Christopher, Caleb, Laura, Valentina and Ian, she will need the community of faith to be both witnesses as she receives the sacrament of new birth, but also participants as she grows in the life of grace and faith in Jesus Christ. Stepping toward Advent's invitation is a step towards community, changed by the grace of Christmas for the sake of others around us. Don't miss this chance to step into Advent's invitation.
Grace and certain hope,
PS- Today is the ten-year anniversary of ordination for Tyrone Harvey, Todd Hare, Charlie Vensel and myself. We were each ordained deacons by Bishop Sandy Greene here at New Covenant in an evening service with Nick Johnson ordained to the priesthood. Many thanks to God, my family, and this parish community for the opportunity to serve Him with you in this place. Many thanks to good and godly friends here and in the heavenly Jerusalem whose faithful prayers have made these years fly past in steep and open places. Thank you.