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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.

~Collect for the First Sunday of Advent [BCP pg. 211]

The Rev. Sarah V. Lewis, priest associate, St. Anne’s & St John’s Episcopal Church, Lowell, MA

It’s late November, and Advent is upon us. Days grow shorter. Outside, leaves are turning from shades of green to gold, red, orange, rust and brown, falling to the ground, exposing bare branches to the winter that is coming. Inside the church, the green hangings and vestments of the Sundays after Pentecost have changed to Advent blues for hope or purples that suggest the coming of Jesus, our King and Lord.

Every major religion has its own calendar, with its special seasons and holy days, fasts and festivals. Advent is the first season in the Christian church year. It begins four Sundays before Christmas, on the Sunday closest to November 30, which is St. Andrew’s Day, and extends through December 24.

The word Advent means “coming.” A time to wait and prepare. A time to make room in our lives and hearts for Christ. A time to contemplate the threefold coming of Christ. Christ has come: this is the first Advent, the first coming of the Christ into the world, his humble birth in Bethlehem which we celebrate each Christmas Christ comes: Jesus the Christ is ever present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist; we in him and he in us. “I am with you always.” Christ shall come again: this is Christ’s second coming at the end of the age for which we now wait in eager hope.

In her book, The Liturgical Year, Sister Joan Chittister says, “The function of Advent is to remind us what we’re waiting for as we go through life too busy with things that do not matter to remember the things that do.”

On TV and in shopping centers, the bustle of commercial Advent greets us with blaring Christmas songs and tinsel-decorated stores, urging us to buy the latest goods and to celebrate the season as soon as Thanksgiving is over. “Why wait? Do it now! Fill the darkness with noise and activity, so we won’t notice it’s there. Is it any wonder that people who succumb to this temptation are exhausted by the time that Christmas arrives,  the ones whose Christmas trees are on the curb on December 26? (Though some may wait until January 1.)

Meanwhile, inside the church there is a hush…a quiet that invites us to wait, to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light,” to acknowledge our mortal life that Jesus came to share “in great humility.” Having rescued us from our selfish selves, Jesus promises to return “in glorious majesty” in God’s good time as our King and Judge. We wait in hope.

Listen to God’s promises on the lips and in the writings of the prophets.  Listen to Mary agree to God’s request that she be Theotokos, God-bearer, the mother of Jesus.  Listen to John the Baptizer proclaim Jesus to be the Lamb of God.  Listen with open ears and open hearts as you prepare to welcome Jesus as he comes to you.


by The Rev. Sarah V. Lewis, priest associate, St. Anne’s & St. John’s Episcopal Churches, Lowell, MA

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