Advent is magical, in the sense of having a mysterious power to transport us. Its power is complex—part nostalgia, part longing for what is coming, part the beauty of its greens and candles and music, part the wonderful feeling of the community coming together, part the eagerness and joy and hope of children, part the snow in the air and stars in the sky, part the parties and festivities, part the contemplative nature and part the activity of giving and serving those in need, part the old stories of the Bible or favorite children’s books and part the adventure of the stories we are living right now and the unknown gifts ahead.
Sometimes Advent and Christmas lead us to a place of sadness for what is gone, but in the context of all the parts of Advent in the church, even that sadness can work a magic that transforms our place of devastation and moves us into the light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. The darkness is real, and is an intentional part of Advent, and so is the light. (Be sure to read about The Longest Night: Facing the Darkness Together, a gathering on December 21st for those who are struggling with grief or pain in this season.)
The more time we give to Advent, the more magical it is, so I hope you will consider it a blessing that this first Sunday of Advent will be a longer than usual service, with a ritual of the children bringing the greens and holly and poinsettias forward to decorate the sanctuary, and the lighting of the Advent Candle of Hope, and the celebration of communion. (There will also be pageant rehearsals both during and after worship.)
We will hear prophecies of Isaiah (60:2) and Jesus (Matthew 24:36-44). Bill and Linda Williams will lead the ritual of the Advent candle with the children. The sermon title will be “The Advent Path of Active Hope.” It will look at Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy as a journey through a darkness like Advent to a light like Christmas.
The Choir will sing an Introit by John Bell, “On God/Jesus Alone, I Wait Silently.” They will sing an Anthem arranged by Peter Amidon who will be holding a singing workshop here in 2020, “Born in the Night, Mary’s Child.” The congregation will sing three of the greatest hymns of the season, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and the Bach harmonized “Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying,” and the communion hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” We will all sing an Advent benediction together set to an ancient plainsong that has been sung daily during Advent in monasteries for over a thousand years. Annemieke will play four pieces from the French baroque “Gavotte with Variations” by Jean-Philippe Rameau.