The Epiphany season started on January 6th and continues all the way to March 3. (Lent and Easter are later this year.) This gives us more readings from Luke’s Gospel – including Jesus being rejected in his home town, his call to go and fish for people, and what is known as Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, and some hard hitting sayings that are similar to their longer form in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. In Epiphany (the word means ‘revealing’) light is shone on Jesus to reveal more about him, and light shines from him into our lives, and our church, and the world.
There is a rush to get to Christmas. There is a rush to get the Christmas decorations up in stores. There is a rush to get Christmas songs on the radio. Personally I would prefer this to all wait until we have the Thanksgiving holiday first. (In Australia, there is also a rush, and no Thanksgiving Holiday to be in the way. So early November the tinsel and artificial snow is going up in there stores.) Thankfully we have the season of Advent to catch our breath, to push the pause button, to reflect on why we have Christmas, namely the birth of Jesus. I encourage you to come to worship as you are able, to hear the Advent readings, to pray the Advent prayers, to see the Advent wreath counting down the weeks until Christmas. And you may not be too old to buy an Advent calendar, and open a little box each day, and pray for the Lord’s coming in our midst. Some of you may have other Advent traditions. When Pastor Ramona Hayes was our vicar, she showed us her Jesse tree. What will you do this Advent to help to center yourself on the heart of Christmas, and prepare yourself for this wonderful festival?
I love the season of Advent. I love the Advent wreath. I love that we get some time to prepare for Christmas. (I love to wear the color blue in the Advent season. When Pastor Dave Keller was vicar at Ascension he could joke that in the whole year there were 4 Sundays for blue, and only two for red.) Last year I remember that we had two funerals during Advent – for Dick Vaughn and Chuck Cozad. I remember how powerful the Advent season was for bringing God’s comfort and hope. I hadn’t thought about it much before, being from the southern hemisphere, but in the north, as the days grow shorter, and the darkness longer, the lit candles on the wreath increase, and then on Christmas Eve the central Christmas candle is also lit, and in our Christmas Eve worship many candles are lit.
With a lot of Greeks living in Adelaide, there was often a focus on how the Greeks celebrated Epiphany on January 6th. For Greek Orthodox, the day is a huge celebration. It includes remembering Jesus’ baptism, and therefore the worship includes the blessing of the waters, firstly in the baptismal font, and then may include a procession to the nearest large body of water.
My family, I mean my immediate family living here in the US, have now been permanent residents of the US (Green Card holders) for more than 5 years which means we are now eligible to become US citizens. We are exploring the entire process, including the citizenship test. Mary and I are still eligible to vote in Australian federal and state elections but it is now almost 10 years since we lived there, and we believe that it is important to vote where we live, and that this is part of our civic duty and responsibility.
How was Easter for you this year? Personally I had a deep and very meaningful Holy Week again this year. Some of you were able to attend the Seder meal on Maundy Thursday led by Jewish professor Rachel Bendor. That helped me feel the setting of that last supper Jesus had with his disciples before we went into our Maundy Thursday worship. Along with many others, I was very moved by our Good Friday evening worship, with the music, the singing, the story, and holding a nail, and then being able to drop it in a metal bucket right at the front of the church. Easter sunrise worship was awe inspiring, seeing the sun rising, and also being able to see the moon in the other direction, and to get our Easter lantern lit from the fire there in Serenity Park, and then a few hours later seeing a lot of children hunting for eggs in that same park. It was wonderful to see our sanctuary so beautiful with flowers and candles and banners and people, and to sing those Easter hymns and songs, and hear again the Easter Gospel. Thanks to all who made this year’s Holy Week at Ascension so memorable.