An Advent of Hope – Learn more about expanded Advent

Greetings in the Name of the One who was, who is, and is to come.

Welcome to the Christ Church website. We are delighted that you are here. Advent has come early this year, although, as we shall see, it is right on time.

When I began writing this piece, I was watching the glowing rays of the sun bathe the stones of the patio outside my office. The air was soft and warm. The sky was a velvety light blue. The leaves were turning into fire. I was hearing voices of kids on their way to class at Total Eclipse Dance Studio in our basement. It could have been any other mid-fall day.

Except that it wasn’t. The kids were wearing masks. They were carefully keeping their distance from one another. Our doors were locked, and still are. A visit to the office requires ringing our doorbell and signing in.

And so, Advent is beginning early this year: Sunday, November 8. Advent means “coming.” We wait expectantly for the coming again of God: Come, Lord Jesus. We lean into envisioning new ways to regather ourselves as followers of Jesus and people of hope in a world that suffers.

A seven-week Advent was the way the Church originally prepared to observe the inbreaking of God’s kingdom, culminating in the Incarnation. Sometime in the seventh century, for reasons that are obscure, a transition to a four-week Advent began.

Fast forward to the twentieth century. The season of Advent—focused broadly on the end (as in purpose) of creation, a new heaven and earth, the coming reign of God, as accomplished in the Incarnation of Jesus—was completely eclipsed by Christmas culture, which is obsessed with the coming of the baby Jesus. Secular consumer culture in turn has overpowered Christmas culture—which is why I saw a stunning array of fully decorated Christmas trees at Lowe’s a week before Halloween.

But this new, old Advent prepares us spiritually for a time of year already notoriously bleak for many. I don’t need to remind you why the months behind and ahead compound our anxiety. Advent helps us to meet despair head on. We use the power of our traditions to remind ourselves of God’s providential care and power, and to prepare us to perceive God’s deep compassion and blessing afresh.

What will this look like? We’ll be experimenting. In no particular order: On Sunday November 8th at 4.30pm, we’ll offer a streamed Taizé Evening Prayer service, with safely distanced, limited sign-up attendance. We’ll gather to light our outdoor Advent tree on November 15th. We’ll start enjoying the stunning blue altar frontal, paraments, and vestments. We’ll worship using the Liturgy of the Word, instead of Morning Prayer. With Diocesan approval, we will offer and “In ‘n’ Out” Eucharist, an experimental bread-line Eucharist allowing a swift trip inside the Church. We’ll start singing verses from ‘O Come Emmanuel’. Other Advent music will appear. We’ll see a new kind of Advent wreath, with new prayers for lighting the candles and for home devotions. Blue ribbons will grace the wreaths on the building. We’ll try an outdoor Pageant. A new sign will appear on our front lawn, and a new light will appear in the Te Deum window overlooking Highland Avenue….We’ll be experimenting as we go along. Send us ideas!

Please join us for worship every Sunday at 10am here or on Facebook. You can also watch the services any time at your convenience. And let us know you’ve visited by emailing office@ccneedham.org, so we can welcome you more personally. Experience the power of Advent, which buttresses our confidence in the power of Jesus, and his ability to lead us through whatever is before us.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Faithfully yours,
Nick+
Rector