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Say Yes this Advent

November 28, 2013 Leave a comment

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The birds were hanging out around my feeders early this morning. Our dogs had decided to allow me to sleep a bit longer than usual and so it surprised me to look out on the deck and notice a Blue Jay staring at me from the deck railing. Another motion caught my eye from the red twig dogwood which was a downy woodpecker examining the branches for food. Then another movement under a pine tree revealed a red belly woodpecker. My senses slowly began to wake up and get attuned to my surroundings as a variety of birds came into focus. There were doves, cardinals, finches, titmice, chickadees, sparrows and a few others that escaped before I could identify them, darting quickly in and out from my view. Some landed on the ground beneath the feeders while others chased each other in out of the bushes and shrubs, all with the one intention of finding food. I began to wonder how many other things I’ve missed in the past simply because I’d not taken the time to stop and look.
We miss a great deal in life by not taking the time to look around at our surroundings and notice what is in front of our eyes. Some will focus on beauty; some will see only pain. Some will pull away from the immediate scene and gaze out at the distant hills and clouds. How many will notice everything that is around them? Our entire lives can play out like this one scene: Tending to focus on the thing that’s going on with us, forgetting about or ignoring the rest of the world as she turns and takes care of her business. Our energy and time gets consumed by this one event. As we approach Advent, let’s see if we can enlarge our view of the environment. What can be done to see as much of this huge tapestry of life as possible as it plays in front of our eyes day in and day out? When Mary said “Yes” to God, she was agreeing to open herself up to an unimaginable history changing experience. We don’t expect to change any history other than our own with the work done for our souls, but we can work to see any number of new happenings right in front of us if we, too, can say “Yes” to God. Let us greet this season of Advent with our eyes, mind, and heart wide open so that our experience of waiting for the newborn Christ gives us a larger view of the world than we would normally expect. Amen.

Deacon Pete

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Old Thanksgiving, New Era Advent

November 28, 2013 Leave a comment

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As a young child, Thanksgiving meant one of several things to me.  First and foremost it meant gathering around the television to watch the parade and wait anxiously to see Santa riding in the final float with his reindeer, and later we feasted on a huge turkey dinner with pumpkin pie.  My plate was usually full of turkey and just enough of the other things to ensure I’d be getting that pumpkin pie with whipped cream for dessert.  It also meant my Dad and my uncles would be gathering to plan out the strategy for their hunting trips on Monday.  And of course it meant we would soon be taking a ride into the city to see the Christmas lights strung across the roads from street lamp to street lamp, and strolling down the sidewalks to see the magic of mechanical displays in the windows of stores such as Glosser Brothers and Penn Traffic.  Some of the toy elves would hammer and saw while others tied bows on boxes and of course Santa would be patting Rudolph on the head or wave to us as we stretched our little legs as high and tall as we could get without being picked up by Mom or Dad.

Those family gatherings, the preparations and trips were all part of a time and season where hope was attached to each snow flake that fell on the lawn wishing for a white Christmas.  The stillness of the cold nights held a certain peace that kept us youngsters from getting too rambunctious from having to play inside so much.  The TV programs of Frosty, Rudolph, and the short animations of Suzie Snowflake and Hardrock, Coco, and Joe brought joy to our little hearts as they signaled the coming of Santa – and yes, Jesus, too.  But the thing that held us together most through whatever else came along was the love of a family knit closely together by their faith in the Holy child, Jesus.  Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love; the four themes we celebrate in the coming season of Advent may have been impressed upon a child through the events of the season in his or her surroundings, but these words are made manifest in that final celebration of the birth of Christ, the first and final Word: The Word found in today’s scripture readings that hold even more reasons to be thankful.

Scripture says “let’s not stop at the reasons to be thankful.”  The stories show us how to celebrate and in each reading we find a different aspect of what Thanksgiving can mean to us.  On the surface Deuteronomy may seem like it’s giving us another law but what it’s really doing is helping us prioritize our actions.  Many people in this situation – getting a new job or new income – would take what they have made or what they have been paid and make an offering after what is left from all of their needs, wants, and desires.  What we’re told is the opposite; that a true and mature faith requires us to make our gifts to God and God’s people first and what is left is for us to live on.  The wise souls know that putting God first in all of their actions is an act of thanksgiving done not with expectations of getting something in return, but actions done with love.  In the psalm we rejoice – for God’s mercy is endless.  When we walk with God or meet with Him, wherever that may be, we need to be constantly aware that we are on Holy ground and the only action required is to openly show our gratitude.  So we come before his presence with a song.

The epistle for Thanksgiving Day almost shouts aloud by itself!  Rejoice!  Again I say, Rejoice!  There is no coincidence that the exultet which is sung at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, the chant that echoes the phrase “rejoice now all you saints and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets sound salvation” that it is the same joyful noise we make today.  We rejoice in the resurrection that leads us into Easter and Pentecost and now as we close the calendar of the church year we once again repeat the sounding joy with thanksgiving.  Surely there were times that were troubled and times where our thoughts veered off course, but they were for their own time; at this moment in time the focus of our prayers are to be filled with thanksgiving.  Whatever is placed in front of us right now should be held in the light of goodness, purity, and worthy of honorable praise.  We should be thankful for everything and rejoice for all that is good.

And finally our Gospel puts the exclamation point on Happy Thanksgiving, with the knowledge through the Word that we are always fed with bread from heaven.  Why it’s even written into the Great Thanksgiving at the Offertory:  “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”  We truly have been blessed this past year.  We’ve found strength in ourselves and support for each other.  We’ve made some errors along the way but nothing has damaged us.  For me to say that I’m grateful for all of you would be an understatement.  We’ve helped each other grow and with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the kinship of the Holy Spirit we’ll continue to move forward.  A new era awaits us.  It could not be more fitting for it to greet us as we give thanks and celebrate the things we have, and also as we head into the Advent season of waiting and preparing for the good things to come.  So as we give thanks for the past and present, let us also rejoice with Hope in our future, Peace in our community, Joy in our souls, and Love in our hearts.  Amen.

Deacon Pete

Citations:  RCL Thanksgiving Day, Year C