Monthly Archives: November 2011

Light and Darkness Day 4

Wednesday, Nov. 30:

AM Psalm 119:1-24; PM Psalm 12, 13, 14;

Amos 3:12—4:5; 2 Pet. 3:1-10; Matt. 21:23-32

Charles Irons

Francis of Assisi lived in a world divided even more starkly by social distinctions
than our own. He continually marveled that the Lord of the universe
had chosen to enter into his creation in such a meek fashion. As Thomas of
Celano put it, “So thoroughly did the humility of the Incarnation and the charity
of the Passion occupy his memory that he scarcely wanted to think of anything
else.”*

In Advent 1223, toward the end of his life and ministry, Francis sought to share
his awe at Christ’s birth. The reenactment of the nativity that he orchestrated
at the tiny town of Greccio has now been repeated countless times around the
world. But Francis’ original crèche has become an object of special contemplation for me—both inspiring and convicting.

I keep my nativity scene in a box in the attic with all of the other Christmas
decorations. My parents have been helping us to build our collection, and we
now have shepherds, angels, magi, and even a few Old Testament prophets. It is
a handsome set, and we give it central billing over the kids’ Fisher Price nativity
and the stone figurines from Peru that we received as a wedding gift. Fifteen days before Christmas, Francis made plans “to enact the memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he rested on hay.” Francis may have recruited
a local couple to stand in as Mary and Joseph, but Thomas mentions only a manger and draft animals in the stripped-down crèche, where “simplicity is given a place of honor, poverty is exalted, [and] humility is commended.”
I worked my way up the ladder in the Christmas Eve pageant as a child—from
a member of the angel choir all the way up to Joseph. Joseph’s carpet beard so
irritated my face that it left a permanent scar. The beard was one of hundreds
of props; there were bells for the pages, costumes for the camels, sequined wings
for Gabriel, and a splendid Star of Bethlehem. After we acted out Luke’s Gospel
account, we stood still while family members snapped pictures.

Once Francis had read the Gospel, he preached, pouring “forth sweet honey
about the birth of the poor King.” Then, “over the manger the solemnities of the
Mass [were] celebrated,” and the presiding priest welcomed Christ in the bread
and wine. One witness then had a vision of Francis approaching the manger
and gently rousing a lifeless child. “Nor is this vision unfitting,” Thomas mused,
“since in the hearts of many the child Jesus has been given over to oblivion. Now he is awakened and impressed on their loving memory by His own grace through His holy servant Francis.”

My father still prepares oysters every Christmas, and Dana fills our own home
with cookies and other seasonal treats. Like many Americans, we eat like kings
and queens throughout the season.

Francis had a collaborator at Greccio, a man named John, who “despite being a
noble in the land and very honored in human society…had trampled the nobility
of the flesh under his feet and pursued instead the nobility of the spirit.” After
the Mass, John provided the faithful with a bountiful feast. Francis later proposed that the rich should feed the poor every Christmas Day, and that Christians should give their draft animals double rations.

The pilgrims at Greccio filled the forest with the sounds of their worship, “ecstatic at this new mystery of new joy.” Their candles, torches, and love of God made the night “lit up like day, delighting both man and beast.” Amen.

*Thomas of Celano was one of Francis’ first biographers. All of the quotations
above are from his Life of Saint Francis, though I have also drawn on other accounts.

(Today’s exercise: All throughout the day pay careful attention to all the animals
that cross your path. Look at the “creepy crawlies.” Notice the birds that
fly above you. Watch the way fish move. Observe the movement of mammals
and other animals that roam nearby, perhaps even in your own house. Note
how “fearfully and magically” they are made. See how extravagantly God has
“clothed” them. Say a prayer of thanks for these creatures of God.)

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Light and Darkness Day 3

Tuesday, Nov. 29:

AM Psalm 5, 6; PM Psalm 10, 11; Amos 3:1-11;

2 Pet. 1:12-21; Matt. 21:12-22

“The Coming of the Light”,
Sourcebook, 1996, Liturgy Training Publishing

Christmas celebrates the dawn of the Light of the World. The powers of
darkness are overcome by his coming to share our life. The long reign of sin
is ended and grace has been poured out upon the earth. The Sun of Justice has
arisen, and evil is vanquished.”

Perhaps the hardest thing to remember about Christmas is this. “It celebrates
the incarnation, not just the nativity. The incarnation is an on-going process of
salvation, while the nativity is the once-for-all-historical event of Bethlehem.
We do not really celebrate Christ’s ‘birthday,’ remembering something that
happened long ago. We celebrate the stupendous fact of the incarnation, God
entering our world so thoroughly that nothing has been the same since. And
God continues to take flesh in our midst, in the men and women and children
who form his body today. And the birth we celebrate is not just the past historical event but Christ’s continuing birth in his members, accomplished by the power of the Spirit through the waters of baptism.
“…What we celebrate is our redemption in Christ and the transformation of all
creation by the presence of the divine in our midst.”

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Light and Darkness Day 2

Monday, Nov. 28:

AM Psalm 1, 2, 3; PM Psalm 4, 7; Amos 2:6-16;
2 Pet. 1:1-11; Matt. 21:1-11

– Paul Marvin

The Light shines in the darkness,
And the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:5)

I have always been intrigued by thought experiments—you know, those brainteasing
puzzles that, as you think them through, help you come to see things
in a new way. They help you clarify how things really are, or really ought to be.
Here is such an experiment. I wish I had discovered it myself, but I didn’t.

Suppose you have a box, say a shoebox, and it is made of heavy cardboard.
There are no holes in it and it is tightly sealed with masking tape. Now suppose
that you take it out to your kitchen table, slit the tape open, then open the box.
What do you expect will happen? Do you expect that the darkness that was in
the box before it was opened will flood out into the kitchen and make the entire
room dark? Or do you expect that the light that was filling the kitchen will
flow into the box and reveal its contents? Of course, we rightly expect light to
flood into the box. But why do we expect this? Because we all know what light is like—it dispels darkness. That is just what light does. We turn lights on. We don’t turn darkness off.

In Romans 1:20 the Apostle Paul tells us that nature itself reveals what God
is like. I think that nature sometimes gets very specific. I think that the light
in your kitchen dispelling the darkness in your shoebox reveals something profoundly
important about what God is up to in Advent and Christmas.

The Advent season can be a time to rummage through the closets, attics, and
crawlspaces of our hearts to find those dusty old shoeboxes of darkness, those
ways in which we habitually fail to love God as we should, or our neighbors as
we should, or ourselves as we should. We gather up these boxes and, like the
Wise Men, we set out following the star toward Bethlehem bearing our gifts,
awaiting Christmas morning when we can present them to the baby Jesus.

We make the journey in confident faith and hope because we know that Jesus
came and continues to come to dispel our darkness. That is who he is—the
glorious Light of the World.

Thanks be to God, then, for the way in which he transforms my shabby shoeboxes
of darkness into precious vessels of life, love, and light.

DSC_0282.JPG

Glory to God whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine:
Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church,
and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20, 21)

(Today’s exercise: Pay attention today to all the instances in which you turn
lights on and off. Thank God for electricity. Thank God for the way he has
delivered you from a sinful habit.)

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Light and Darkness

First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of
darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of
this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come
again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the
dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
for ever. Amen.the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, Nov. 27:
AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113; Amos 1:1-5,13—2:8;
1 Thess. 5:1-11; Luke 21:5-19

– Zac Koons

I wonder how you picture the first day of creation. What did it look like when
God spoke the words “Let there be light” into the dark, formless void? I
wonder if it was instantaneous. I wonder if it was like a sunrise. Do you think it
was sheer, unadulterated brightness? Or was it colorful? Was it the fiery gold of
the noonday sun? Was it cast in light blue, reflecting the waters of the deep? I
wonder what it looked like for light to first come into the world.

I wonder how you picture the Nativity scene. What did it sound like when Jesus
was born? Could you hear his cry over the whinny of the horse? How many
people were there crowded around that make-shift crib? What do you think it
smelled like? I wonder how the light fell on that scene. Maybe there were oil
lamps strewn about the stable. Perhaps Joseph held up a solitary candle.

I invite you to wonder with a painter named Rembrandt Harmenszoon van
Rijn. His painting of the Nativity depicts a farmhouse crowded with shepherds
and animals—all of whom are trying to get a peak at the new baby boy. The
manger is partially obscured to our eye, blocked by the shoulders of anxious
onlookers. And this actually puts us directly in the scene with the shepherds,
maneuvering around for the best vantage point.

The strange part of the painting is the light. Off to one side a shepherd is holding
one dimly lit lamp, but there is another light, a warm, golden, unnaturally bright light emanating from the manger itself. And you notice that it is by that light that we can see anything in the scene in the first place. We can only see the faces of Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds to the degree that their faces can see Jesus.

I wonder if the light radiating from the manger is the same kind of light that
pierced through the darkness on the first day of creation. I wonder if Rembrandt
was thinking of the words of Saint John, who said, “The true light that gives
light to everyone was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9). I wonder if you see yourself somewhere in this painting. I wonder if it hurts to be exposed to the true light?

I wonder if our faces will shine like Moses’ did before the Lord? I wonder
what it will be like when night shall be no more, and we need no light of lamp
or sun, because the Lord God will be the only light we need (Rev. 22:5).

(Today’s exercise: Take as much as time as you can afford, now or later in the
day, to look at Rembrandt’s painting. Allow this painting to stir you to prayer.
Invite the Holy Spirit to give you insight through the painting into your own
life.)

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All Saints Advent Devotional

Even So, Come Quickly, Lord
Reflections on Advent

Welcome to Advent at All Saints Church!

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, simply meaning “arrival”or “coming.” As a liturgical season, Advent spans the four weeks that lead up to Christmas Day. The color for the season is purple, signifying preparation.

The preparatory purpose of Advent is two-fold: first, to spiritually prepare for
Christmas as we remember Christ’s first coming in the Incarnation and, second,
to prepare for his promised return. How does this work? The Church has long
understood that as we face our personal longing for Christ’s return today, we can
look back and identify with the longings of the ancient Jews as they awaited
their redemption in the promised coming of the Messiah.

By looking ahead to the future and by remembering the past, Advent has a
remarkable way of revealing the reality of the present. If we are honest, we
acknowledge our very real need for rescue and redemption now. The exile is not
over. The road through the desert is not paved. War and violence still abound.
The devastation of poverty continues to plague our world. Injustice goes unnoticed.Disease ravages our bodies. We long for the Lord to come to make all things new and to wipe away every tear from our eyes. The Advent cry is:

“Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

As such, when we arrive at Christmas morning this year, remembering that the
“Word took on flesh and dwelt among us,” not only are we filled with all the
joy that comes from knowing that God is with us and that, in Christ, he comes
with our salvation, we are also strengthened in the sure hope that he is coming
again.

The goal of Advent is not simply to observe an Advent calendar or to sing Advent hymns or to light candles on an Advent wreath. While these are good and helpful things, it is important that we learn how to cultivate Advent hearts—
hearts that are continually open to experiencing Christ’s ongoing ministry in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

Introduction to this Devotional

This devotional covers all the days of Advent as well as Christmas Day. For
each day there is a Scripture reading accompanied by a reflection and/or piece
of artwork by a member of All Saints Church Chapel Hill – Durham. We’ve organized the devotional into four different but related themes: “Light and Darkness,” “Waiting and Journeying,” “Joy and Sorrow,” and “Arriving and Hoping.”

Each theme was chosen to offer an opportunity to our writers to explore the
tension between two poles. As many of us know, life is rarely a “black and
white” affair. Shades of grey, paradoxes, seemingly unresolvable tensions, painful experiences and deep mysteries mark the life of a follower of Christ. Advent is a time when we acknowledge both light and darkness. We embrace both waiting and journeying. We drink of both joy and sorrow. We pay attention to both the arrival of things long desired and the hope for a still fuller fulfillment of God’s promises. As editors we felt that it would be good for us as writers and readers to acknowledge these tensions, to enter into them by faith, with hope. At the very least they might serve as a small reminder to avoid the extremes that so often tempt us with easy solutions (for example, believing that for the Christian there is only light without darkness, or only darkness without light, or a joyless sorrow or a sorrowless joy).

How to Use this Devotional

Each day when you come to this devotional, slow down and pray the collect for
the week (printed on each Sunday). Then read a Psalm. Read the Scriptures for
the day. Then read the personal reflection, noticing the images. Be attentive to
the presence of God in your life.

As editors, we have added a new element to this year’s Devotional. In the
spirit of Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, we have written daily exercises
to accompany each reflection, excluding those that come from non-All Saints
members (St. Augustine, for example!). These “exercises” have a practical aim.
They are intended to offer the reader an opportunity to respond in some active,
relational or spiritual way to what they have read. In this way, the hope is that
we’ll become not only hearers of the Word but also doers. Hopefully, too, it’ll be
a fun way to engage the reflections throughout the course of our day. Principally, the desire is to see Christ’s life seep itself more deeply into the “changes and chances” of our life.

We encourage you to make this guide your own—write on it, underline words or
phrases that strike a chord, journal as you go. In this hurried season, we have an
opportunity to choose to live differently. Take your time. Be leisurely with these
readings and reflections. Remember that others are taking this journey with you.
Know that God is indeed Emmanuel, God with us. Pray before you finish.
It is the sincere prayer of the church leadership that this devotional will bless
you and the community of All Saints as well as the Body of Christ at large.

Thanks

Many thanks to the pastoral staff of All Saints, David Hyman, rector of Holy
Trinity Chatham, Erik Newby for his design work, Jim Janknegt for the cover
art, the photographers and all the writers who contributed work.
The editors – Tanner Capps and David Taylor

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The General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer

A Great Thanksgiving Prayer for Thanksgiving Day! 

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for  leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Page 836 in the Book of Common Prayer 

Thanksgiving Day Collect 

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Found on page 246 of the Book of Common prayer 

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Baptism Photos from Christ the King Sunday

This past Sunday was Christ the King Sunday. It was a joyous service. We praised God and intentionally lifted up Jesus as the king of the universe. His kingship is marked by authority, power, glory and might – but also by humility. He rules over all because he is the servant of all.

This past Sunday was also a joyous morning because four babies and one man were baptized. Pray for those that were baptized: William Curry, Madeline Wright, Sally Uecker, Jonah Meckley, Ryan Grove. My absolute favorite prayer for anyone comes in the baptismal liturgy. Look for it below the pictures. What a beautiful Sunday. There was even a banjo playing with the music team! It does not get better than that.

Praise to the Father. Praise to the Son. Praise to the Holy Spirit. Praise Almighty God Three in One!

Deliver them, O Lord, from the way of sin and death. Lord, hear our prayer.

Open their hearts to your grace and truth. Lord, hear our prayer.

Fill them with your holy and life-giving Spirit. Lord, hear our prayer.

Keep them in the faith and communion of your holy Church. Lord, hear our prayer.

Teach them to love others in the power of the Spirit. Lord, hear our prayer.

Send them into the world in witness to your love. Lord, hear our prayer.

Bring them to the fullness of your peace and glory. Lord, hear our prayer.

– thomas kortus

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