Grace Episcopal Church
29 November 2012
It’s tempting for some Episcopalians to assume a certain smugness at the beginning of Advent, to expend more energy in pointing out to people that “it’s not Christmas, yet” than to point them toward Christmas. We may quite properly draw a contrast between songs of a “Holly, jolly Christmas” and the holiness of the incarnation of God, but as we enter Advent this Sunday, let us focus not only on the holiness to which we are called but on the holiness that we are called—that God counts us worthy to do His work.
Every person and every society lives by some conception of what it means to flourish as a human being. Very often this “meaning” is inchoate. Flourishing is described in terms of happiness, and happiness in terms of self-actualization, and self-actualization in terms that range from the accumulation of stuff to the accumulation of power. The question people seek to answer is: what constitutes a fulfilled life?
Ask yourself this question. In formulating your answer what you will find is that the difference between faith and its absence relates to our frame-of-reference for a fulfilled life. Is fulfillment to be realized/measured/experienced in this world only or do we look for fulfillment in a kingdom greater than this world? Is human flourishing immanent (something that happens only here-and-now) or transcendent (something which extends into a realm beyond the here-and-now)? The answer to this question is the answer of faith which we reaffirm in Advent: that we await the coming of our Lord.
Let’s not poke fun (well, maybe not too much!) at those around us who in chasing after a “Holly, jolly ... ‘holiday season’” chase a mirage of happiness in consumption. Let us, rather, take to them the answer to the question they ask is chasing happiness—the answer of faith, the experience of our Lord. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to reach out to those who do not know God. Now is the best opportunity to try to reach those who want something “special” in their lives, and can’t figure out why they can’t buy it. Now is also the time to remind ourselves that Advent and life are both seasons of “not yetness”. It is not yet Christimas. The kingdom of heaven has not yet come. But we await both, and we look forward to both in Christian hope, for we have the faith in which we know that whatever conception of human flourishing we may imagine, God will exceed our expectations. Whatever conception of happiness we may seek, the joy which our Lord wills will exceed this.
Our Lord exceeds our expectations. But one reason for this is that our expectations are too small. The crowds which surge through malls on Black Friday seek not only bargains but the “latest thing,” ignoring the fact that (to paraphrase C. S. Lewis) whatever is not eternal is eternally out-of-date. People of faith live not for a season, or for tomorrow, or for today, but for always, for what is eternal.
Watch. Wait. But watch and wait in hope, and let your hope and expectation be contagious. Let those around you know that what they seek to consume they can only find when they “taste and see that the Lord is good”.
Stewardship: We can now celebrate 16 new pledges! However, we have still not heard from a substantial number of parishioners who were not present for Consecration Sunday on 11 November. Follow-up letters have gone out, but we stlll need to hear from 14 members who pledged in 2012, but who have not indicated their intention for 2013.
Please respond immediately! Whether you intend to pledge or not, or whether your pledge amount changes, we need to know in order to put a 2013 plan together.
Grace Abounds: Many people merit thanksgivings for their service this past week:
Coffee hour: Jessica Ambelang.
Office help: Pat Ford Smith.
EYC fund-raiser: Scott Fabiano, Pat Ford Smith, Bobbi Kraft, Kaleigh Kraft, Bryan Stenz.
Holiday Gift Tree: Please thank Nancy Yurk for organizing the parish response.
Altar Guild: It has been a busy time for Altar Guild (and will stay busy for a while!) Please thank the members, and especially thank Claudia Fischer for her work in coordinating all of the guild’s efforts.
Please take the opportunity to notify the office of any member or friend of the parish to whom we owe thanks, in order that we can publicize this in the weekly newsletter.
Adult Christian Education: Adult Education meets on Sundays at 9 a.m., in St. Nicholas Hall. On 2 December we continue our series on Christian ethics, with the focus this week being on bioethical issues and on ethical issues arising in the justice system. The entire course can be found on the parish website under “Christian Formation: Adult Education”.
Biblical Literacy: The Bible Challenge readings will be for week 40. Bible study for the Sunday lessons meets on Thursdays, following the 9 a.m. Mass. Bible study will meet this not meet on Thursday, 6 December, due to a conflict with a meeting of diocesan clergy. Study summaries continue to be posted on the parish website.
EYC Notes: Grace and Peace! It is nearly Advent, and the Tripartite youth workers are excited to extend an opportunity to all of the youth, families and members of Grace. December 9th from 3:30-4:45 the youth of the three churches will be singing carols for men and women at the Sheboygan Senior Community, there is also going to be a youth gathering at St. Dominic from 5-7 p.m. that night for all 8-12th graders. Please see the poster in the narthex for more details. Please note that our parish service ofthe Lessons and Carols service is the same night, and will be taking place at 4 p.m. in the Sanctuary.
Music this week:
Prelude Chorale Preludes on Savior of the nations, come Max Reger
Entrance Hymn #58 “Lo, he comes with clouds descending”
Kyrie S-91 Missa de Sancta Maria
Magdalena Healey Willan
Offertory Hymn #61 “Sleepers, wake! A voice astounds us” Wachet auf
Sanctus S-114 Healey Willan
Agnus Dei S-158 Healy Willan
Communion Motet Come, thou Redeemer of the earth arr. David Willcocks
Comm. Hymn 615 “Thy kingdom come!” on bended knee St. Flavian
Closing Hymn #66 “Come, thou long-expected Jesus” Stuttgart
Postlude Chorale Prelude on Sleepers, Wake! J. G. Walther
§ St Nicholas’ Visitation: St. Nicholas will visit Grace Church on December 2 at the 10:15 service. Please come and receive a treat.
§ Advent Lessons and Carols: Advent Lessons and Carols is a beautifully sung service held December 9th, at 4:00 p.m. The service is followed by a High Tea in St. Nicholas Hall.
§ Salvation Army Gift tags: We have the tree up, and all the name tags on it, for the Salvation Army Family gifts, please take a name or two and follow the instructions on the table next to the tree. If you have any questions please call Nancy Yurk at 453-9948.
§ Christmas Castle Volunteers: Nine people are needed to help with the Christmas Castle December 20th from 11:00am until 1:30pm. The castle is located behind the old Walgreen's at memorial. Mall, close to the good yr. store on the west side of the mall. Please park on the south side of the Building. Please sign up on the sheet in the Narthex. Any questions please contact Nancy Yurk at 453-9948.
§ Children’s Choir: Youth and Children’s choir rehearsals for the Christmas Eve service are at 5:30-6:00pm beginning this Thursday November 29th, downstairs in the choir room. Additional rehearsals will be on December 6th, 13th and 20th these will be just before the Pageant rehearsals. The choir is open to 2nd graders and up, and will sing for the 4pm service on Christmas Eve.
§ Christmas Pageant Rehearsals: will be on Thursday, November 29th, December 6th, 13th and 20th starting at 6:00p.m. The rehearsals will begin in the church and then go downstairs for costumes. Participation is open to youth of all ages. The Pageant will take place during the 4:00 p.m. Christmas Mass. Please sign up on the sheet in the Narthex. If your child would like to participate but cannot make rehearsals please note that on the sheet or call Annette Fabiano at 451-7098.
§ Messiah Sing-Along: You are invited to sing this great classic along with the Lakeshore Chorale. Sunday, December 2, 2012, 2:00 pm at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 730 County Road PPP, Sheboygan Falls. Music Director/Conductor Paul Thompson will conduct the audience and Chorale in choruses from Part 1 of Handel’s most popular work. Eminent organist Dr. R. Benjamin Dobey will accompany the afternoon’s sing-along, and soloists from the chorale and community will sing the arias and recitatives. No tickets or reservations needed - come and sing, or join us just to listen to this delightful celebration of the Christmas season! Donations will be accepted. Guests may bring their own music, or reserve a copy ($5.00) by calling the Lakeshore Chorale office: 920-451-1863 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
§ Sunday School Cookie Bake: Sunday, December 16th the Sunday School children will be baking cookies for Meals on Wheels, baking will begin after the 10:15 Mass. Pizza lunch will be provided. Please bring family and friends to help, many hands make light work. Thank you both for your time
§ Christian Ethics: The adult formation class is looking at Christian Ethics. We will first examine what an ethical decision is, where we look for guidance in ethical decision-making, and how ethical decisions relate to salvation. We will then pass on to consider specific ethical issues. Throughout the course we will seek to identify the teachings of the Church as found in Scripture, Reason and Tradition. The course materials are posted on the parish website, under “Christian Formation: Adult”. Adult Education meets on Sundays at 9 a.m., in St. Nicholas Hall.