Upcoming Service Notes, December 23, 2018, Mary Sunday, Advent Sunday of Love

We will light the Advent candle of Love and celebrate Mary, the Mother of Jesus in our 10:00 AM service on the 23rd.  The Bible story of the Annunciation and virgin birth has turned rational people off to Christianity, and the reverence of Mary by some Christians as if a god herself has confused and even enraged other Christians.  The Mary-phobia of Protestants has traditionally limited her role to a brief moment of supporting-actress glory at Christmas and pathos on Good Friday with a few cameo appearances in between, mostly cast in a negative light as a nagging mother.

Christian culture has shifted in a positive way to free us from our old prejudices so that we can  value Mary’s part in our spiritual tradition and find in her character both a model and a metaphor for our own vocation.  We are all called to open ourselves to let Christ live within us, we are all called to bear his light into the world, and so we are all called to go through a similar process to say yes to the voice that calls us and to accept what the Holy Spirit seeks to do within us and through us.

Looking at Mary through that lens, we find a path leading us to humble ourselves, to simplify and purify our relationship to the world, to empty ourselves of our selves and self-interests, and to grow into fullness of life and the highest stages of spiritual and psychological maturity. Mary inspires us to nurture the heart and mind of Christ in us so that we may bring Christ to birth on this hurting earth with courage and hope.  Mary shows us how to be transformed so that we may transform the world around us.

This year we will explore the radical letting go we need to do to be like Mary, what the Sufi poet Rumi and others have referred to as “dying before we die.”  We live in a period of history that is unprecedented and needs us to open to the Spirit as fully as we possibly can to have the wisdom and power our tasks will require, and of course our personal life confronts us with plenty of situations where we need the Spirit’s guidance and strength.  The spiritual model of Mary can help us enormously with this.

We will read the Annunciation, the visit of Mary with Elizabeth and the Magnificat of Mary, and we will sing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” and a new hymn, “We Need a Transformation,” set to the Passion Chorale.  (There is a tradition of connecting Advent and Lent through tunes with different words. J.S. Bach used the Passion Chorale both in his St. Matthew Passion and one of his Christmas Oratorio cantatas.)  The choir will sing the first movement of Vivaldi’s Magnificat and also “Waiting for Bethlehem’s Light” by D. Peterson/ C. McCartha with Laila Reimanis on flute. We will all sing the Benediction set to the ancient Advent Conditor Alme tune one last time.  Annemieke will play “Allemande” from French Suite IV by J.S.  Bach, and the traditional English “A Virgin Most Pure” and an improvisation on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” to end our Advent services as we began them.

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