The Return of the Light: A Reflection on Light, Love and Ashes

return of the light

I can totally understand our ancestors’ worship of the sun. Honestly, I can! I mean just put yourself in the place of your pre-scientific great, great, great, great, great, great ……. grandparents and the way they viewed the sun. It illuminated their days, and when it disappeared at night they were filled with a sense of dread from hidden predators of both the animal and spiritual kind. The sun gave life and sustained life. It made their crops grow as well as every other living creature. The sun could also take life. Too much of the sun brought drought, starvation and death. They tracked the sun and stars (other suns) and fashioned their calendars and the keeping of time around the movement of these heavenly bodies. There was a constancy in the sun. Every day the sun rose and set. Every year the sun faded and returned. There was rhythm. The sun faithfully moved across the sky, a type of cosmic covenant.

We’re not so different from our distant relatives. Sure, we don’t worship the sun with sacrifices. You don’t see the masses bowing down to Sun Gods like Ra or Apollo. Yet we still show a tremendous amount of devotion to the sun. Look at our obsession with the weather. Its prognosticators are local and national celebrities, whipping us into near religious fervour over the upcoming weather. There are TV channels devoted exclusively to the weather and apps that give us 24/7 access to predictions on the weather – all so we can plan our lives around how much sun there will be. Look at what happens on a sunny day, especially after a few days of bad weather. Everyone comes out to bask in the sun. We now know that our moods are tied to the sun or lack thereof. Yes, we have evolved beyond the superstitions of our ancestors but we still, like them, hold the sun, the light, with much devotion. Like them we still depend on the light of the sun for our very existence.

Even our Lenten season is rooted in the sun. The slight tilt of the earth back on its axis as it rotates around the sun leads to longer days and more light. New life is just around the corner. Lent is the marking of the lengthening of days, the return of the light. The light that will fully return at the end of our Lenten journey.

Lent reminds us of our place in this cosmic covenant of light. Lent reminds us that we are not the light; we are but dust. We are the dust of stars, billions of years old, brought to life on this tiny planet by the light of our sun.

Scripture, too, reminds us of our part in the story of creation. God creates us out of dust, blessing us with divine breath. We are awakened for just a flickering moment in the grand scheme of things, created to take part in the work of creating and re-creating, of love and life. God enters into covenant with humanity, promising to be faithful always. The Hebrew word for this is hesed, the most common word and description of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. God shines the light of hesed, covenant love and faithfulness, on us. In return God asks us to do the same in the world, reflecting God’s love back out into the world.

The prophet Joel is reminding the Hebrew people of this covenant relationship. He calls them to covenant renewal via fasting and prayer. It’s a type of sacred reboot back into right covenant relationship with God and each other. “Change your heart and not your clothes” he calls. Do not think that your religious observances absolve you from your responsibility to God and to your sisters and brothers, to the alien, the widow and the orphan.

The gospel from Matthew also warns about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The hypocrisy that pays fine detail to the rituals and the law, but ignores what is important to God, which is a broken and contrite heart. Even the public display of the imposition of ashes must be tempered by Matthew’s warnings about making a performance out of our piety. The power of our religious symbols lies not in the symbols themselves, but in the grace, mercy and love to which they point. The ashes we use today point to a deeper truth.

For us Christians this grace, mercy and love is made flesh in Jesus. In his life lived, and in his broken body and spilled blood, we see the God who dwells in light inaccessible. In him the light becomes human, hesed becomes flesh and bone and dies a human death. But not even death can fully hinder the light. There is no ending to love. The light always returns. The ashes remind us of our frailty and brokenness. A frailty that God himself assumes in the incarnation. A brokenness that God seeks to heal and redeem. Far from being a symbol of death, the ashes become a symbol of redemption. From the light comes dust and from dust comes the light of salvation.

Lent then is a call for us to turn back to the light, what in religious language we call repentance. It’s 40 days of preparation and self-reflection as we wait for the light. This light is now only a faint glimmer, but soon its full glory will be revealed. Even now its warmth draws us toward it, melting away the frozen bleakness of our hearts. Remember you are dust, star dust, and to that same dust we will all surely return. But in the light of God’s love, the risen son, humans (literally from the dirt) truly live. So as the light returns to us, let us turn toward the light and let us keep a holy Lent.

In the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forevermore. Amen.

This song from Alana Levandowski beautifully compliments what I’ve written here. The song is called When Love Meets Dust and was recorded specifically for the rare occasion of Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day this year

 

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People of Promise: Lent 2018

covenant

“… after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” The Prophet Jeremiah

Recently in a sermon I confessed my love for the Old Testament, better known as the Hebrew Scriptures. Needless to say it got me some raised eyebrows and funny looks. Really?? Isn’t that the part of the Bible with the violent, bloodthirsty God? No doubt this part of the bible can be hard to understand and parts of it seem far removed from the 21st century digital world that we inhabit. But what I love about the Hebrew Scriptures are the stories that try to make sense of how we relate to God and to each other. These stories weave together to create the grand mosaic story of covenant or, better yet, the story of the covenant God.

In our present age covenant is a word that doesn’t resonate much anymore. Outside of particular religious traditions it’s not a word that is used often, but not so in the ancient world. For the Hebrew people, in particular, covenant was central to their self-understanding. After all it was God who had called their ancestor Abraham into covenant, promising that through Abraham all the world would be blessed. After liberating the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, God enters into a covenant with them making them a chosen people. They are called to be a people of holiness and righteousness, justice and love. In fact, the most repeated word in the Hebrew Scriptures is covenant in the form of hesed, which is pictured in tattoo form above. Hesed is translated many ways including covenant love, faithfulness and steadfastness. Covenant is about promise and relationship. As the prophet Jeremiah says in pointing to a new covenant that will go beyond the old: “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” As the story unfolds we see that God, and not the people, is the one who is truly faithful to the covenant relationship.

For Christians too, covenant is central to who we are. Without an understanding of the covenant-keeping God of the Hebrew Scriptures, the story of Jesus and the church make no sense. As contemporary Christian writer Rachel Held Evans says, “When the people of God abandoned the covenant of love and fidelity, drawn as we are by the appeal of shallow, empty pleasures, God removed every possible obstruction to the covenant by being faithful for us, by becoming like us and subjecting himself to the very worst within us, loving us all the way to the cross and all the way out of the grave.”

It is not by mistake, then, that the notion of covenant gets associated with baptism by the earliest Christians. Nor was it by chance that the Lenten season of baptismal preparation used the covenant stories of the Hebrew Scriptures to tell new Christians of their place in the story of the covenant people of God. This Lent we return once again to these stories…the stories of Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Hebrew people, Jeremiah and promised covenant renewal. What will they tell us about God and ourselves?

Our Lenten journey this year, then, is one of promise – the promise of the never-failing, steadfast love of God. The promise of our place in the great story of God and God’s covenant people. Also it is a reminder that this covenant love cannot be kept to ourselves but must be shared – shared with each other, but also shared with all whom we meet.

Rev. Robert

 

Only Human

mary comforts eve

Every now and then around this time I’ll see a picture of Mary with a big round belly and I’ll think about how little we actually talk about her humanity. I don’t think we hear enough about Mary besides her quietness, obedience, and grace. We don’t hear about the struggles she went through emotionally, physically, mentally, dealing with carrying Jesus, birthing him, and subsequently losing him to a gruesome death right before her very eyes. We only hear about her throwing a fit during her pregnancy over some cherries in a well-known Christmas carol that is not based on anything Biblical.

I don’t think we hear enough about Eve besides her doubt, her disobedience, and her leading her husband to sin. We don’t hear enough about their joy together in the garden, we don’t hear about Adam’s overwhelming gratitude that he finally found his ‘ezer kenegdo (Hebrew for “helper for his partner”). We don’t hear enough about her shame and sorrow after causing the loss of her beautiful paradise home and The Fall of humanity. We don’t hear about her grief over the loss of Abel or her struggling to accept Cain afterwards.

We don’t hear enough about the humanity of these humans – people just like us. We don’t talk enough about their role in relation to each other as people in community with one another rather than magical saints we are supposed to look up to and model our lives after. They were people, after all. They tripped, they fell, they lived, they learned. They felt joy and they felt sadness, they felt love and they felt heartache. I can understand that it is hard to connect to a religion when nothing feels very ‘real.’

Anyway, every Advent I share this powerful illustration on social media of Mary consoling Eve. A lot of interpretations can be made here and I could spend forever talking about the feminist aspect too. My accompanying post is not always as inspired (or long), but I think this season is an important time to remember that while Christmas can have a lot of magic and glitter and sparkle in it (and I love every bit of it!) what and who we are celebrating were human beings just like us. So if you’re feeling the pinch this holiday season, if your family situation isn’t quite as enjoyable as the commercials tell you it should be, if your health isn’t great, if money is tight, or if you’re just feeling down, remember; you’re only human and so were they.

Ashley Ruby                                                                                                 ashley.r.ruby@gmail.com

Virgin Mary and Eve
Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr Grace Remington, OCSO
© 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey.

 

 

I Was Homeless and You Gave Me Shelter

homeless

This post originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Anglican Life. Posted with permission.

Early one spring morning in 1970, my mother arrived in Vancouver on a train from Toronto. She had me and my three younger brothers in tow. We had not eaten in more than a day. We had no money and no place to live. We were homeless. Thankfully, on that occasion, an uncle and his family took us in for a few weeks until my mother was able to get back on her feet. I was six years of age at the time. This is my earliest memory of being homeless, but it was not the first time and it would not be the last.

Having experienced homelessness in my childhood, it was with great interest that I read the report, Everyone Counts: St. John’s Homeless Point-in-Time Count 2016, an endeavour of End Homelessness St. John’s (EHSJ). This document reports “a count of the number of people experiencing homelessness” in the city of St. John’s on November 30, 2016. The count indicated that “there were at least 166 people experiencing homelessness in St. John’s” on that date, 38 of whom were youth between 16 and 24 years of age. That was just one day. EHSJ estimates about 800 people experience homelessness at some point each year in St. John’s. I highly recommend reading the report to get a sense of the scope and complexity of homelessness in our capital city.

The Canadian Homelessness Research Network defines homelessness as “the situation of someone who is without stable, permanent and appropriate housing.” I suspect most of us think of folks sleeping in parks, alleyways or vacant buildings when we think of the homeless. These are the “unsheltered homeless” and they are only the tip of the iceberg. The definition of homelessness includes those accommodated in emergency shelters, interim housing, motels and institutions, as well as those temporarily living with friends or family “without guarantee of continued residency or prospects of permanent housing”. These folks are the “hidden homeless” and constitute the majority of the homeless in St. John’s. According to Everyone Counts, of the 166 homeless people identified that day, only 3 were unsheltered. The rest were hidden from view in emergency shelters (81), transitional housing (5), someone else’s home (22), or in an institutional setting (55). Ignoring the plight of these our brothers and sisters falls well short of our baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being. There is no dignity in homelessness. Trust me on this one.

As the Church, we are called to respond with compassion to the plight of the homeless in our midst. The question is, how? This is a question before our diocesan Society and Justice Committee. It should be a question before parish communities as well. We may find answers in the responses of other parts of the Church, such as Centre 454 and Cornerstone Housing for Women in the Diocese of Ottawa. We may find answers by engaging with community groups that serve the homeless, seeking ways in which we can partner with them. Homelessness is a complex social justice issue and there are no easy answers. Nonetheless, as the body of Christ, we can’t turn a blind eye. Jesus said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36) I’m certain he didn’t intend this to be an exhaustive list of whom we are called to serve. Indeed, “I was homeless and you gave me shelter” does not seem out of place in this list.

Father Mark Nichols

 

An Advent Mixtape for the Beginning of the World

beginning-is-near1

Our theme this year for Advent is “The Beginning is Near”. In Advent we do not simply wait for the end of the story, but the beginning. Advent is not about the end of all things, but the true beginning of all things. Advent is about the arrival of Jesus. In fact, that is literally what the word Advent means – arrival. The arrival of Jesus marks the end of the old ways of war, apathy, despair and hate, and the beginning of peace, hope, joy and love. For the early Christians this was good news or gospel. For them the season of Advent was about preparing for and participating in this arrival, this new way of being in the world.

I think one of the ways to help prepare is through music and song. We do this each year in worship. We sing familiar songs to help us get ready. Well what I present here is a non-traditional mixtape to help us get ready. Good music has a way of speaking truth much more powerfully than simply words alone. Good musicians are prophetic artists that can show a world that we can only imagine right now. So like the seven seals of the Book of Revelation, it’s my hope that these songs will open up for you your own apocalypse, your own unveiling of a world to come, a world already coming, and our place in it.

Wait! by Common Deer

Common Deer is a young, up and coming band from Toronto. They blend classical influences with synthesizers and arena rock enthusiasm to create some pretty energetic music. In this song Wait! they capture perfectly the urgency of Advent. When they sing in the chorus, “Wait! There’s no time to waste. They’ll take all there is to take” they seem a contemporary echo of the words of Jesus, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:32).

A Beginning Song by the Decemberists

The Decemberists 2015 album was appropriately titled “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World”. It pretty much captures the view of the world that a lot of people hold these days. In a clever turn, the last song on the album is A Beginning Song. This ending in beginning captures well the ethos of Advent. In beginning the Advent liturgical season we look to the end, the unveiling in Mark’s little apocalypse in chapter 13. The song is accompanied by a beautiful video. The song itself also picks up on the Advent theme of waiting and hope. They ask, “I am waiting, should I be waiting?” And again, “I am hopeful, should I be hopeful?” It’s an introspective song that invites us to see the light in us and in the world around us.

A New Song by Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper has made a name for himself lately in the hip-hop and pop worlds for blending thoughtful, socially aware lyrics with classic R&B, Gospel and Soul sounds. He’s not afraid to delve into religion, politics and race in his songs. In this song, which he debuted on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he explores fatherhood, fame, sin, temptations, racial inequality, white privilege and societal apathy. Things aren’t right the way they are now, but Chance knows that social change can’t come without first dealing with our own demons. Here he is a modern day John the Baptizer calling us to make ourselves ready for a new day that’s coming, even now: “The day is on its way, couldn’t wait no more, here it comes, ready or not, here it comes.”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Hey! Rosetta is a local St. John’s band with a big sound and poetic lyrics written by frontman Tim Baker. Their Christmas EP from a few years back is a favourite of mine and any of the songs on it could be on this list. I choose this one for our list because it is an Advent standard and familiar to the religious and unreligious alike. The song itself is based on the O Antiphons, or the great Os, and are Magnificat antiphons used in Advent Vespers (evening prayers). In Hey! Rosetta’s version they strip away their powerful instrumentation and leave the raw emotion of Baker’s vocals and the aching, longing of the lyrics. It’s a beautifully stark cover of a great Christian hymn.

It’s the End of the World by REM

In this post-punk 80’s anthem REM gives voice to the apathetic anxiety of living in a post-nuclear, capitalistic society. The video has a post-apocalyptic feel to it. A young boy sifts through the chaotic trash of a world that was, but is gone. The boy holds old pictures of people, perhaps ancestors long gone. It’s as if he is looking for something, anything to make sense of the environment that he finds himself in. As the song fades and the camera pans out we see that one of the walls of the house is missing. Even if the boy doesn’t realize it, the world is not contained to the room where he finds himself. As the chorus repeats, we see that in fact it is not the end of the world – the future is wide open. The end is never the end, just another beginning. This is the story of Advent, and the heart of the Christian story.

The Times They Are A Changin’ by Bob Dylan

The poet laureate, Bob Dylan, was the prophetic voice of a generation. The 60’s were a time of great social and political upheaval and Bob Dylan provided the soundtrack. But revolution, political, spiritual or otherwise, is timeless and so, therefore, Bob Dylan is timeless. Our current time feels eerily like the 60’s. Political turmoil, race relations, economic inequality and gender issues that were awoken in the 60’s have stirred again. Actually, Advent reminds us that this sense of longing for change and justice is nothing new, but part of the human condition. With echoes of the Beatitudes and the Magnificat, Dylan strums his guitar and reminds each new generation of the Kingdom hope to come:

” Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing”

You by Gungor

Gungor is a husband-wife duo that came out of the contemporary Christian music scene, but as artists they have quickly outgrown that genre. Creative, genre-defying songs, great musicianship and smart lyrics make Gungor worthy of your iTunes or Spotify playlists. You is a song of spiritual journey from childish, Sunday School faith, through doubt and despair, on to openness and thoughtful faith. The song ends with a wide open faith in Jesus:

“You were there
Every broken heart and tangled care
Jesus, Teacher, Brahman Light
Son of God and Source of Life
And it’s always only you

Even in our own personal faith journeys, the end is never the end. Each chapter that ends in our life is simply a door to a new us, a new beginning. The cosmic story of Advent’s endings and beginnings is played out in me and you, every day, day after day.

So there’s my mixtape for Advent, the beginning of the world. This is not an exhaustive list and I could add many, many more. What songs would you include on your playlist? Feel free to share here so that our mixtapes becomes the soundtrack for Advent, the beginning of a new world.

 

 

Happy New Year

AdventCandles

With the First Sunday in Advent, December 3rd 2017, we begin another liturgical year, the Church’s Year. With the Season of Advent, the rhythms of the church year begin again and Sunday by Sunday we commemorate and re-experience events upon which our salvation is grounded. Advent is the beginning of this weekly journey.

Advent is from the Latin and means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. Advent emphasizes the coming of the Christ to the individual human spirit that is, firstly, the coming of Christ in judgement, the Second Coming, and, secondly, the coming of the Christ Child in great humility at the Incarnation. Advent is marked by expectation and anticipation. We look forward to the second coming of Jesus while at the same time we prepare to celebrate his first coming as a child in the manger. Since the sixth century, the Season of Advent has been set aside as a time of hope and preparation, but it is more complex than just waiting for the next December 25th as we shall see below.

As we look around the church and experience the Holy Eucharist, there are a number of indications that we are in the Season of Advent 2017.

The first is the Advent Wreath which is a visual indicator of the Advent Season. It stands near the lectern and is used at the beginning of each liturgy during the Advent and Christmas seasons. On each of the four Sundays in Advent, we light a new candle. The four outer candles, which are blue, represent a period of waiting and anticipation, and the fifth candle, the Christ Candle, is white and is in the centre of the wreath. It represents Jesus, the light of the world who has come into our world of darkness to bring light and life. This last candle we light on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

The second is the use of the blue chancel hangings and the blue priests’ vestments. The earliest record of the use of blue in a colour sequence dates back to the twelfth century in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. The significance of blue for the Canadian context is our preparation in hope and joy, and calls to mind the Advent Preface: “Now we watch for the day when he will come again in power and great triumph to judge this world that we, without shame or fear, may rejoice to behold his appearing.” (Book of Alternative Services, 219)

The third is that this year a St. Mark’s the Service of the Holy Eucharist on Saturdays and Sundays includes Advent materials from other National Churches such as the Church of England as well as some recent Canadian Advent liturgical materials. Hearing another version of the psalms. or the Lord’s Prayer, or reciting a more recent edition of our affirmation of faith (The Creed) nudges us in a gentle way “to stay awake”! The Great Thanksgiving comes to us from the Evangelical Lutheran Church, a sister church with whom we have a special relationship across Canada. As Anglicans, we are constantly seeking fresh language and idioms to help us express our faith as a living and vibrant force in our lives.

The fourth is the various themes we find in the Sunday readings from the Old Testament of the First Sunday in Advent through to the Gospel on the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The scripture readings focus on the final judgment, the Second Coming of Christ, and on the coming of the Christ child at Christmas, our redemption. From the First Sunday in Advent, we read: “The Son of Man will come in glory and gather the elect, though no one knows the day or the hour, so stay awake so that you will not be asleep when the Master returns.” (Mark 13: 24 – 37) By the time we reach the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the readings turn from judgment to the joyful news of the birth of Christ, the Incarnation. This is where the promise of God’s faithfulness to God’s people becomes a reality: “and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1: 26 – 38) Advent is more than the church’s way of counting down the shopping days to Christmas Day. Advent confronts us with death and judgment, and waiting redemption. It bids us to be ready and on the lookout.

While Advent is a season about waiting and anticipation, is it just about sitting around and twiddling our thumbs? Is there more to Advent than putting in time? Many of us know only too well what it is to wait for someone to arrive, or to put in time until the clock strikes at 5 p.m. How we use our time of waiting is paramount. We may use this time without any purpose or focus, or we may use time creatively. Here it is that we find the third focus of the Sunday readings. From Isaiah on the Third Sunday in Advent we see how to use our time creatively: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me: he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to the bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61). Waiting creatively, we take up the challenge of living the Kingdom of God as a present reality within our lives and within our communities. We may choose to think of the Kingdom of God as a place or even a state of being we   inherit after our death, but the Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed is here and now. When the hungry are fed, when the oppressed are treated justly, and the downtrodden are given hope, there is where we find the Kingdom of God, the presence of God. This is the call of Advent. This is our call.

Happy New Year!

Further references:

lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu (Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, 2017 2018, Advent)

faithandworship.com (Prayers for Advent)

www.anglican.ca (Resources, Worship, Liturgical Texts Online, Texts for trial use and feedback, Visit Resource)

The Beginning is Near: Advent 2017

The-Beginning-Is-Near“The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here”                                                   The Gospel According to Saint Mark (from The Message)

If you’re anything like me, you probably wince every time you turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or scroll down through your social media newsfeed. What now? What has he who-must-not-be-named said or done now? What crisis is looming? Which of the four horses of the apocalypse now darkens the horizon?

Yes, we live in a time of perpetual crisis, which is perhaps driven by the 24/7 news cycle that floods our senses with constant “breaking news”. There is little doubt that the world is a scary place right now. To not sense this you would have to be living under a rock. There is climate change, economic uncertainty, rising racial tension, renewed nuclear proliferation, the return of fascism and growing threats to our democratic institutions. It’s enough to make you retreat to the comfort of your PJs, Netflix and the relative calm of the fantasy world of Game of Thrones.

But some historical perspective will tell us that the world has always been like this. Humanity has seen its share of violence, disease and despair. But some biblical perspective, as we bear witness to in Advent, tells us that the world will not always be like this.

Now at first glance, Advent may seem like just more doom and gloom. The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent begins, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Mark 13:24-25). This, though, is not the end of the story, but the beginning. Advent is not about the end of all things, but the true beginning of all things. Advent is about the arrival of Jesus. In fact, that is literally what the word Advent means – arrival.

The arrival of Jesus marks the end of the old ways of war, apathy, despair and hate, and the beginning of peace, hope, joy and love. For the early Christians this was good news or gospel. For them the season of Advent was about preparing for and participating in this arrival, this new way of being in the world. Liturgically we mark off this time differently. Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year, another new beginning. We light the Advent candles as we symbolically, week after week, light the lights of hope, peace, joy and love. This year at St. Mark’s we will mark the season of Advent with a brand new, locally sourced liturgy that draws on the wider church for inspiration (more about that later this week).

We also step up our waiting game in Advent. We are not just in the great waiting room of the universe, waiting for God to call our number in that last cosmic judgement. No, Advent waiting is a roll up your sleeves and get to work kind of waiting. At St. Mark’s we emphasize this active waiting in lots of ways: We collect gift cards for the Association for New Canadians, which they then distribute to immigrants and refugees experiencing their first year in a foreign country. We collect food to fill hampers for the hungry in our community. We gather with our neighbours from Logy Bay Manor, the Single Parent Association and Virginia Park Community Centre to share a Christmas meal together. Our Sunday School children will teach us about the important work of Team Broken Earth in Haiti and help us raise funds for this work. Our choir and band will visit the homes of parishioners who can’t get out to worship, bringing them the gift of joyful song and presence.

Saint Mark begins his Gospel by saying, “The good news of Jesus Christ…begins here.” Yes, it begins with Jesus but it also begins with us, right here and right now.  As Christians we are called not to linger too long at the manger, gazing at the infant Jesus, because he refuses to remain in this docile greeting card creation. Instead we are called to follow Christ into the busy streets and broken hearts of the world. We are called to proclaim, heal, forgive, serve and, most of all, love as Christ loved. We are called to follow Christ as he makes all things new.

Are you ready? This is only the beginning!