December 2, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
Come and worship with us!
All are welcome!
To serve the
To grow the
This morning I’m going to do something I haven’t often gotten to do, here at Calvary –
preach a “1st Sunday in Advent” sermon!
On this Sunday, rather than preach a Sermon, per se, it is my usual practice to deliver to
you The Rector’s Annual Report to the Parish, But in case you haven’t heard, we’ve
cancelled our Annual Meting, scheduled for 11:30 this morning, because of the
uncertainty of the weather. It may turn out that the whole day will be clear and dry, but we
can’t afford to take that chance. As most of you well know, weather all around can be no
more than a little “messy,” while conditions on this hill are downright treacherous. That,
plus the fact that we do have a substantial part of our congregation that is aging, led me
a few years ago to begin warning, “if the weather is at all iffy, please don’t come!” When
it’s a matter of something as important as the Annual Meeting, we just can’t even take the
quite early yesterday to cancel, and reset the meeting date for next Sunday! And – just a
little advance warning – if we have the same kind of outlook, next Saturday, that we had
yesterday, we’ll postpone, again! And if there’s any doubt in your mind, call me at home!
You may recall about 4 years ago, we didn’t actually manage to have our meeting until
Now, just one thing before getting around to that rare 1st Sunday in Advent Sermon, and
that is something I’ve been saying on this morning for well over thirty years, so I might as
well say it again – for the 8th time, to you – and get it out of the way:
Happy New Year!
Just about a month ahead of the rest of the Western World, the Church starts its new
year, so we get to jump the gun, as we open the Church’s new Liturgical year with the
Season of Advent. So, Happy New Year, and welcome to the Advent season! – probably
the most difficult of all the Church’s Seasons to observe, properly, given the various
tugs, and pulls and lures of our secular lives.
When we evolved our present prayer book some 31 years ago, we knew there were lots
of things we needed to change – that over the centuries we had wandered in some odd
and mistaken directions, and it was time – well Past time, in fact – to get back to our
origins. The major directions we needed to go in, were clear – but some of the details
were not. So we kind of compromised on some of them.
Confirmation was one of those confused details that I know continues to be a source of
confusion to a lot of us. We figured out that Confirmation wasn’t what we had Thought it
was for a lot of Centuries – the “completion” of the Rite of Baptism, as the final step into
full “Communicant” status – but we hadn’t figured out, yet, what it Is – nor, quite frankly,
have we, yet! So today, it’s what I call, “a Sacrament in search of a meaning” – important,
we’re sure, yet no longer a requirement for anything!
And Advent is a whole season that’s sort of like that.
For a lot of Centuries, Advent was approached as a kind of “little Lent!” A season of
penitence, when all the trappings of joy, the alleluias, the Glorias, were left behind, and
we spent the four weeks on our knees, repenting! Oh, we didn’t abstain from meat, and
we didn’t fast – it was only a “little” Lent, so not quite the same thing.
And while the world was happily getting ready for Christmas, the Church was dressed out
in the purple of penitence, reading depressing lessons, and spending its Sunday
mornings on its knees – which produced its own kind of “split personality”: Christmas
outside and mini-lent inside!
But then liturgical renewal came – not just to us, but to All of the liturgical Churches – and
with liturgical renewal came Prayer Book revision. We rewrote the rites of worship,
redesigned our Churches – moving our Altars out and moving our pulpits over – and we
modified our seasons. But Advent we hadn’t quite figured out. We said we were changing
Advent, but we didn’t know how we ought to go about it.
So we announced it was no longer going to be a penitential season, but a season of
preparation – and kind of let it go at that!
And how would we go about our preparation? Well, we’d continue to dress our Churches
out in Purple, read depressing lessons, and spend Sunday mornings on our knees!
Over the years, fortunately, some changes have crept in: the Blue of hope has replaced
the Penitential purple in a lot of parishes, our hymnals have introduced some slightly
more upbeat music, and we’re very slowly getting people off their needs – very! But we
still haven’t figured it out. Perhaps we’ll need another Prayer Book revision before we
can truly find our way.
In the meantime, we keep trying.
In the great drama of the Liturgical year, Advent Is the Season of Preparation. The
Scripture tells us that the whole creation groaned in travail to bring about the birth of the
new age – the age that began with the birth of the Christ into the world, and that was
announced by the cry of John the Baptist, whom we’ll hear next Sunday: “The voice of
one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
And in our preparation for his coming, we look at ourselves. As the days shorten and the
great event nears, we become introspective. We examine the course of our lives in the
past year; we look where we’re headed. We examine where we’ve gone off the road –
veered from the destination, missed the mark, the target of who we were made to
become, who we’re called to become. Repentance Is a part of the preparation that is
Advent, but Not for its own sake; rather, for the sake of the Process – the getting ready!
In services with no singing, when we begin our worship, crying, “Lord have mercy! Christ
have mercy! Lord have mercy!” that ancient song meant to be more a shout of Praise than
a plea – praising God for Having mercy, rather than begging for it! When we drop the
“Alleluia’s” from some parts of the service, it’s so the cry will mean more when we Do use
it in some of our Great Advent hymns and in other parts. When we stop singing the
Gloria, and substitute a different hymn, it’s because we are saving that great shout of joy
for the night we’re preparing for, the event we’re approaching, that’s announced by the
cry, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
And when – as the Church – we refrain from jumping fully into the excesses of the
secular season, it’s to help us make our preparation deeper, and to build our expectation
so that the moment of realization – the Night of the Child’s birth – will be more Real, more
Use these next weeks as they were intended, as a time of examination, evaluation and
introspection. Not– like some of our lessons unfortunately still describe, waiting for
further revision – as a time of deep gloom and great sadness – that’s the Old Advent –
but as a time of joyful, but sober anticipation, a time of reevaluation, a time to look at
potentials. And use the time, not only to prepare for the great Feast that’s approaching,
but as an appropriate preparation for the beginning of Any new year!
So Happy New Year. And may a careful, deep and joyous Advent season be the start of
another wonderful year in Christ’s service!
In Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen