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Advent 3, 2021
‘Guadete Sunday’
12 December 2021
Today’s Readings: Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-15.
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

Amen.

A Reflection from Fr. Simon


When the theologian Sam Wells came to St Anne’s a few years ago, one of his pieces of advice was to “let the Bible read you”. There’s a lot in that, and the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields was giving some wisdom from years of pastoral insight and spiritual depth. In the Eucharist, after all, we “break the Word” before we go on to break the bread. And in our honest moments we know that we too need to be broken — broken into and broken open, to be remade in the body of Christ. Scripture is a key part of that process.
 
That’s a helpful reminder at this time of year. We come to Advent and the readings of Christmas with a certain familiarity. These are stories we know, and know well. We have heard them for many years, maybe had them explained to us as children, and we affirm them at our December liturgies year after year. But Scripture is not like our favourite novel or film or song. It might sometimes be like a comforting blanket, familiar and warm. It also needs to feel a little strange or different. How else can we see refugees, poverty and humility anew? How else can we reconnect with what God is doing, and has done, in the world? By allowing a lively and open dialogue with Scripture is the answer.
 
Sometimes there is humour in Scripture. That feels impossible, and especially considering how jokes we might have found funny five years ago are now strictly off limits. But at times there are flashes of something like comedy there and our Gospel reading today might just be a little tongue-in-cheek. For here is the idea (in John the Baptist) that all this fire and brimstone about the Messiah coming with “winnowing fork in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; the the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” is the way “he proclaimed the good news to the people” (Lk 3.17-18). If that’s the good news, then what must the bad news look like?!
 
John the Baptist is sometimes depicted in images as having wings. There’s a simple explanation for this: he is a messenger, the Greek word being angelos, and thereby an association with heavenly messengers, the angels themselves. Before long we shall be singing ‘We hear the Christmas angels, their great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel’. Whether or not he’s a comedian, John is certainly a messenger and “the people were filled with expectation”.
 
The Baptist is often described as “the forerunner” because obviously he appears before Christ, and not once but twice. He signposts that something important is about to happen. The family stories in the early part of Luke’s Gospel speak of the mission for which this child is destined, and when the pregnant Mary visits Elizabeth (our reading for next Sunday), the unborn John leaps in her womb. John’s later appearance is before the public ministry of Christ which opens with his baptism by John in the Jordan. For this is the Messiah who comes in judgement and love. So we see how in Advent, John points to the birth of Christ and our Christmas celebration of the infant Jesus, and a look to the Second Coming when he shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
 
In many ways, John is a bridge: between despair and hope, between sin and repentance, then and now. He recalls in his appearance the Old Testament prophets and is mistaken for Elijah, yet he stands on the threshold of a new era and preaches deliverance. As he himself bridges the Old and New Testaments, he points to the ultimate bridge between humankind and the divine: Jesus Christ himself. This vocation of the Baptist — ‘with the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling’ as T.S. Eliot put it in ‘Little Gidding’ — is characteristic of the Christian life. However we might understand discipleship or the form of our own calling to new life in Christ, we are to model something of John in what we do and who we are. Even, at times, with humour.
 
We can all give thanks for people in our lives who have pointed us towards Christ, both in the way they live their own lives and in the message they bring to those around them. There are people who have been messengers to us, have gone before Christ for us, and who will even have been a bridge at times. That’s what makes faith living and lively, and passed on from the earliest days through people on our journey who have been as John the Baptist. Our responsibility, our calling, is to continue that work ourselves: to be messengers, forerunners and bridges too. As the people of God we are to proclaim the good news and ‘marvellous light’ of Christ.
 
Advent is a happy season, not quite as miserable and penitential as Lent. It’s about hope and expectation, the lifting up of heads to sense the salvation that is at hand. That’s how the ‘joke’ of the doom-and-gloom judgment being good news works: we have the promise that Christ will come, as he came first in the form of a baby and will come again. And that is how the Bible can read us, when we sit with it for a while and allow that breaking in, stirring within us what it means to be called to new life in Christ.
 
 
 
Read Fr Simon’s Church Times review of Ralph Fiennes’s performance of T.S Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ here.

 

Organ Voluntary


Adagio – Tomaso Albinoni:
 
Watch here
And with a bonus piece!
 

Today's hymn


Hills of the North rejoice
 
Watch here

Music from Matthew


This third Sunday of Advent takes its name from the first word of the Latin Introit sung at the beginning of mass, Gaudete (Rejoice!). Like the fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare (similarly translated), Gaudete Sunday provides a sense of refreshment during this season of austerity. Vestments are traditionally rose (rather than purple) on these two Sundays; some churches follow the Sarum tradition of blue vestments and frontals throughout Advent. Today we will begin mass with the original Latin Introit in a more elaborate setting than usual and if you listen carefully you’ll hear the word ‘Gaudete’ at the start. Here is Purcell’s English verse anthem which sets a translation of the ‘Gaudete’ introit.
 
Rejoyce in the Lord alway by Henry Purcell (1659-95)
 
Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Philippians 4:4-7
 
Capriccio Stravagante, Collegium Vocale Gent, Skip Sempé (director)
https://youtu.be/y6fNcuvRbjo?t=49
 
Today we use the third verse of the Advent Prose at either end of mass:
 
Drop down ye heavens, from above:
And let the skies our down righteousness.
 
Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord,
and my servant whom I have chosen;
that ye may know me and believe me:
I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour:
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
 
At the offertory we will have the fifth and sixth great ‘O’ antiphons:
 
O Oriens
O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
 
O Rex Gentium
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
 
During communion, Sophie will sing a movement from Bach’s Advent Cantata Schwingt freudig euch empor (Soar joyfully up) BWV 36:
 
Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen by J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Also with muted, weak voices is God’s majesty honoured. For if the Spirit only resounds with it, it becomes such an outcry, that it is heard in heaven itself.
 
Kerrie Caldwell (soprano), Mishkar Nuñez-Mejia (violin)
Horizon Chamber Players, Christian Campos (conductor)
https://youtu.be/okJwFIOModE
 
As it’s Gaudete Sunday we can allow ourselves an organ postlude today: Nun komm der Heiden heiland BWV 599 from J.S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. Here is an arrangement for piano duet:
 
Arthur and Lucas Jussen (piano)
https://youtu.be/P8L0p_wB2Bg
 

Christmas Services


‘Midnight Mass’ – Friday 24th December – 10pm.
Christmas Day – Festive Eucharist – 11am.
St. Stephen’s Day – Sunday 26th December – Eucharist – 11am.

Sadly, there is no Nativity again this year.  However, a new Christmas video is being prepared.

Morning Prayer on Tuesdays at 9am


This service is now suspended until sometime in the New Year  when the mornings are lighter and less cold.



The Gift of Advent


‘We enter today the solemn season of Advent in which the Church bids us prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ.’
From the Advent Service.
 
Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the Church’s year and the beginning of the season of Advent, that season which precedes Christmas, (which doesn’t actually begin until sunset on Christmas Eve!).  This year I would like to reflect a little on the Gift of Advent and on how we make the best use of this time. It is, perhaps worth noting that the Church’s year begins with a penitential season!
 
The season itself is a gift to us and, if we accept and embrace this gift, we can find it the most fulfilling and fruitful season of the year.  Like Lent, Advent is a penitential season in which we are called to prayerful reflection.  Also, like Lent, it order to do this it calls us to set aside all of those things which may distract us from God and our relationship with him.  Of course, this is not always easy to do; in many ways it is especially difficult as the world around us is already celebrating the Christmas season which follows.  We cannot help but be drawn into that though I am tempted to suggest that we should all do most of our Christmas shopping before the end of November and then put all thoughts of Christmas aside until the last few days and focus our attention on Advent!
The line at the top of the page from the Advent Service, ‘the Church bids us prepare to celebrate the coming (Advent) of Christ.’  As many will know this preparation is for the celebration of two Advents.  Firstly, the approaching Feast of Christmas and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, his birth in Bethlehem, that expression of God’s love for us, the fulfilment of God’s promises for which the people of God had waited so long and the beginning of Christ’s life and ministry on earth in which he not only redeems humanity and restores our relationship with God but also in which he teaches and guides us in the way of living as his disciples; indeed, simply, the way of living a fulfilled human life.  The second Advent is that day when he shall come again in glory to gather all things to himself – the Second Coming.  It is this second focus which is the more important theme in the season of Advent although, of course, the two are linked.
 
So how are we to prepare for that day when he shall come again?  As in Lent, through prayer and worship, fasting, the study of scripture and self-examination.  Our starting point is the question, ‘Are we ready to meet him when He shall come again?’ and, of course, the answer is that we are not or, at least, that we do not feel ready to meet Him. So our use of the season is about responding to that question.
 
Before anything else, however, we have to commit.  We have to commit to making the most of the four short weeks which can disappear in no time at all.  We have to commit to a little time each day, each week to the prayer and reflection which is the gift of the season. In a sense, we have to give ourselves that gift of time.  Some people seem to find it helpful to have an Advent Wreath in the own homes as a reminder. (It’s also especially good if you have children to teach them too.)
 
Next we have allow the season to do its work, in particular, through the liturgy and the scriptures.  The scripture readings through the Sundays of Advent are full of themes and richness which help us to answer that question with which we began, ‘Are we ready to meet Him?’  As we listen closely to them and, perhaps, carefully re-read them, they will speak to each of us in different ways.
Here are three of them:

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My souls thirsts for God, the living God.  When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, ‘Where is your God?’
Psalm 42:2-4.

For what are you longing? What is your heart trying to tell you?  Advent invites us to explore our deepest longings because it is in doing so that we can begin to discern what is good and what is not so good, what to pursue and what to discard.  We also find that those deepest longings inevitable lead us towards God.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,…

A voice cries out: in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.  The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 40:1-5

As we reflect on our longings and on our discomfort God speaks words of comfort to us.  The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and we shall see it. Of course, we have seen it revealed in Jesus Christ, so with an eye to the celebration of that first Advent, we have the reassurance and comfort that God fulfils his promises and this reflection draws us back to Him.
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, says the Lord.  I will put my law within them, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Jeremiah 31:33

Along with the discernment of our deepest desires we might also ask ourselves what is on our heart.  Amongst the many things we may find there we are also told, through the prophet Jeremiah, that the law of God is inscribed on our hearts, and that law is Love.  This is a gift to us all year around but one, perhaps, which we might seek to discern and know more fully in this season of Advent.  God does not give sparingly.  He has poured generous love into our hearts both for Him and for those around us.  A rediscovery of this love and its expression in our lives brings gratitude and joy and is a great step forward in our preparations of ourselves to meet Him.

Even picking out these three simple themes, the longing of our hearts, the comfort of God and the rediscovery of love give us much to reflect upon during this season.  As we listen to and study the words of scripture and hymnody we shall each find others which have special relevance to each one of us.  But what is important is that each of us gives ourselves that time for prayerful reflection on these themes; only then shall we begin to understand what a gift Advent really is.
Fr. Andrew+
 

Come thou long expected Jesus as you haven’t heard it

Watch here
... and here

An Advent Reflection from Br. Casey

Watch here

Church of England Bereavement Survey


You may like to take part in this
Link here

The Feast of St. Nicholas – 6th December – Sinterklaas in the Netherlands


Whilst we are struggling to keep Advent, and the Americans seem to begin the Christmas season at Thanksgiving, the Dutch begin at the Feast of St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, on the 6th December.  This video gives some idea of the Feast, including reference to the recent controversies over ‘Black Piet.’
The video has one or two errors and is slightly mis-leading in that it refers to the Feast as 5th December.  However, the Dutch, as at Christmas, have their main celebration on the ‘Eve.’  Many of you will recall that the Jewish Day begins at sunset.  Hence, when we keep Holy Week, Jesus is crucified and dies at 3pm on Friday, the first day.  There is sunset, Holy Saturday, and sunset again, the second day.  And the ‘third day’ begins at sunset on Holy Saturday; hence, our central celebrations of Easter happen on the night of Holy Saturday, and not on Easter Sunday.  Therefore, the ‘Eve’ as we may call it, is part of the day following.
One element of Sinterklaas, omitted in the video, is that the Dutch write satirical poems about each other, which they read out over supper, and which should be teasing but not cruel!  A thought for Christmas?!
 
Watch here

For your prayers


Please pray for the repose of the soul of Colin Young, to be laid to rest on 22nd December.
 
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