Advent Antiphons

An antiphon is (in traditional Western Christian liturgy) a short sentence sung or recited before or after a psalm or canticle. Today begins the Advent Antiphons. But what are the “O Antiphons”? Below is an excerpt from the Catholic Education Resource Center by Father William Saunders. I wholeheartedly commend their use each of these seven days.

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat [Song of Mary] during O-Antiphons_02Vespers [Evening Prayer] of the [Roman Catholic] Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.

Read the whole article.

O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

cf. Ecclesiasticus 24.3; Wisdom 8.1 

Scot McKnight: Church: God with Us in Jesus

Timely food for thought.

An Advent Church knows who Jesus is.

The English teacher would tell the budding writer, “Get your book going with something that grabs the reader in the first sentence.” Unless you’re Matthew. He began with a sentence that grabs only the serious Bible student: “A record of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1, CEB). And the next set of lines is nothing but a list of names in Israel’s history, with the oddest choice of women to enliven the story, and this goes on for a whole page!

But for the serious Bible student, another message came through loud and clear: God’s way with Israel has been a story that has awaited some kind of chapter that would bring it all together.

And that story yearning for completion finds it in the birth of a little boy in the backwater of Israel, in Galilee, to two backwater people—Joseph and Mary—who are unknown to all but God and their families. God had decided that they are the way to bring this story to completion.

What is this completion? That the God who has been “with” Israel in many ways—in a smoking pot, in a cloud and a fire, in a tabernacle, and in a temple—has finally chosen to be with Israel in a single human being. Jesus is called “Immanuel,” God with us (Matt. 1:23).

Say it slowly now: God. With. Us.

Not quite, so say it like this: Jesus. Is. God. With. Us.

Advent is the day God pitched his tent to be with Israel. It is the day God became one of us. An Advent church knows Jesus is God with us.

Read it all.

Rejoice Always! You’re Kidding, Right?

Sermon delivered on Sunday Advent 3B, December 14, 2014 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you prefer to list to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126.1-7; 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24; John 1.6-8, 19-28.

Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin and means rejoice as in rejoice in the Lord always. Gaudete Sunday serves as a break from the heavy topics of the Four Last Things on which we reflect during Advent—death, judgment, heaven, and hell—and this theme of rejoicing is symbolized by the liturgical color of pink today. Appropriately enough, our epistle lesson begins with the apostle Paul commanding us to rejoice always. And we want to respond, “Seriously Paul?” This, of course, is the challenge the season of Advent presents us. How do we as Christians live out the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ? It is this question that I want us to look at briefly this morning.

We see today’s theme of rejoicing explicitly or implicitly in all our readings this morning and this makes us want to scratch our head and wonder what the various writers were thinking. I mean, do the family and friends of my old liturgics professor who died on Friday from cancer have a reason to rejoice? Does the Karageorge family have any reason to rejoice? How about Pat or Curt or Judy and Monroe? Or how about the rest of us with our secret sorrows and burdens? What about those who labor under cruel or tyrannical rule or who are victims of chronic injustice and/or poverty? Why in the world would they want to rejoice?

We ask these kinds of questions because we live in a world corrupted by human sin and evil. We also ask these questions because we try to create our own basis for rejoicing. But a moment’s thought will tell us how futile and ludicrous this latter attempt really is and this is one reason why so many people suffer from depression during the Christmas season. We want to tie our joy to our condition in this world and we expect life to keep serving up nothing but good things, primarily because most of us in this country have deluded ourselves into thinking we can overcome all that is wrong in our world with our money and our scientific and technological advancements. After all, doesn’t our own Declaration of Independence tell us we are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? That’s why it’s easy to have a merry Christmas when our houses our brightly lit, our families and friends are gathered around us to celebrate the season and there are the perfect gifts all wrapped beautifully under the tree. But what happens when the lights go out and our family and friends are no longer around or we are incapacitated so that we are forced to celebrate the season all alone? Or what happens when economic catastrophic strikes and we can’t even afford a Christmas tree, let alone put presents under it?

Do you see the point? When we make the things and people of this world the basis of our joy, we are bound to be disappointed and become depressed at some point because all things are transitory in this fleeting life of ours. But sadly this is our preferred source of joy and our worldly pleasures are the only way we think God ever blesses us. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that material well-being or family and friends and the love involved are not important. They are hugely important and they are indeed a product of God’s rich blessings on us. But all these things are bound to fail us because of their fleeting nature.

But if we change the basis for our rejoicing to something more permanent and reliable than the fickleness of life, maybe the biblical exhortations to rejoice and give thanks always will become more relevant to us. I am of course talking about the challenge of developing a faith that is full of hope based on what God has done, is doing, and will finally do for us in Jesus to help us bear the burdens that come with living in a fallen world where bad things happen routinely, and here we see Paul laying out a framework to help us to do just that. Paul was no stranger to suffering. In fact, he suffered far more than most of us in this room. But on the basis of his faith in what God has ultimately done to rescue and heal us in and through Jesus the Messiah, Paul had a sure and certain hope that although evil, sin, and death are still with us, they have been soundly defeated on the cross of Jesus and he was further convinced we have been given a glimpse of our ultimate future in the resurrection of Jesus. Elsewhere, Paul compares living in this world to living in the darkness of night, but that each new day brings us closer to the light of the dawn of new creation and we are therefore to rejoice that God has won the day for us, even if we cannot always see how his victory is being worked out in this present dark age (Romans 13.11-14). In other words, Paul is reminding us what a true and deep joy is all about. It is about having the basis of our joy grounded in God’s promises and faithfulness. That is why we are called to have the same sure and certain hope that Paul and the other biblical writers had. And hope is not to be sneezed at because without hope we will shrivel up and die.

Likewise, Paul commands us to give thanks in every circumstance. Again we ask, say what? Paul is not telling us to develop a bizarre habit of thanking God for the bad things that happen to us (thank you, Lord, for afflicting my family with cancer, etc.). Rather, Paul is telling us to thank God because God loves us, is always present with us, and is sovereign over all the forces of this world and our lives, good and bad, even when that is not obvious to us. We believe this based on the many blessings in our lives and the consistent biblical witness that God continues to act in radically unexpected ways to demonstrate his love and sovereign power. Who, for example, would have thought God himself would become a human and enter his world as a vulnerable baby just like the rest of us do? Who would have thought God would rescue us from evil, sin, and death by allowing himself to be nailed to tree and suffer a criminal’s death? We’ve gotten so used to these stories (and others like them) that they cease to be scandalous and shock us anymore. We would therefore be wise to spend sufficient time reflecting on them during this Advent season so that we are once again shocked and scandalized by these stories because in them is the basis for our belief in God’s love and sovereignty, even when we cannot see or understand how it all is working out. Listen if you have humble ears to hear.

Paul commands us also to pray without ceasing. In other words, we are to incline our hearts and minds toward God, confident that he really is sovereign over his world and that he both hears and will act in ways that will accomplish his good will for us, even if we are unable to see how the circumstances in our life are working for our good and for the good of all creation (cf. Romans 8.28). This means that we can and must pray anytime, anywhere, and under any circumstance in addition to our regularly appointed time for prayer (you do have an appointed time for prayer, don’t you?). We are to do these things because this is God’s will for us as his people and doing these things will help strengthen our faith and help us learn to develop a real basis for having a joyful and thankful heart. But we will never know this to be true unless we are wiling to take the plunge and practice developing these holy habits. In other words, if we are going to live as Advent people, we must start acting like we believe our own story.

But Paul also reminds us that we do none of this in our own strength and power. We do it in the power of the Spirit who lives in us and who makes our Lord Jesus present and available to us each and every day we live. That is why he tells us not to quench the Spirit because to do this means we set ourselves up for failure as God’s people who live their lives in the world’s darkness but also as people whom Jesus can and will use to shine his light onto that darkness.

Having the Holy Spirit living in us will also help us test everything and cling to anything that is good. We must run away as fast as we can from any kind of evil or any kind of belief or thinking that encourages us to participate in evil because doing so will indeed quench the Spirit. We test everything by the light of Scripture and tradition, which in turn gives us guidelines to what is good in the Lord’s sight and what is not. Living holy lives where, for example, we care for each other, feed the hungry, and fight for justice, is the best way we can show ourselves and the world we are learning how to be Advent people who live with real hope.

But then Paul seals the deal. Too often we hear these kinds of exhortations and think that Paul is talking about a program of self-help where we make ourselves fit to be rescued by the Lord when he returns. But that of course is an exercise in futility because self-help in the realm of moral development is an oxymoron. And so Paul ends his list of commands with a breathtaking promise. The God who calls you will ensure that you can do all these things: rejoice, give thanks, pray, test, etc. and God will also ensure that we will be with our Lord when he returns to usher in his new creation. Not because of who we are. Not because we deserve any of it. But because God himself is faithful and he will do it. Do you want to learn real joy and give thanks in any circumstance, crazy as that sounds? Do you want to live with a sure and certain hope, even in the midst of seeming hopelessness? You can if you trust God to help you do these things so that you become someone who knows the love and power of God expressed fully in Jesus Christ our Lord at work in your life. Will you dare trust the Lord enough to take the plunge?

Let me be clear about all this. I am not suggesting that living by faith will suddenly make everything all right. Everything will NOT be all right because we still live in the darkness of a fallen world. But as our Lord himself told us, we are to take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16.32-33). Learning to live as Advent people with real joy requires that we really believe his promise and blessed are you who spend time reflecting on these things this Advent. God will surely give you the desires of your heart (cf. Psalm 37.4).

I started out by asking if some people should rejoice this Advent and I want to end by using one example to illustrate how this all works. I have lost a dear friend in Martha G., my old liturgics professor, to an evil death. So should I be rejoicing now because Christmas is coming? Well yes, but with a caveat. My heart aches for my loss and her family. But I know Martha’s great faith, hope, and love. She knew her Lord and so do I. That is why even in my sorrow I can rejoice because I know death is not the end for her. When our Lord returns and her mortal body is raised from the dead to live eternally in God’s new creation, there will be no more sorrow or sighing or sickness or death. And in light of this eternity, what she has suffered pales in comparison. That is not to diminish her suffering but rather to proclaim that God has redeemed her suffering and death and this gives me great comfort and hope so that in my sorrow I can rejoice.

This, I suggest, is a far better solution for facing the world’s darkness as we approach Christmas than trudging through malls in search of the perfect gift to cheer us up (or whatever else we try to do that will ultimately fail us). We’ve already been given the perfect gift in Jesus our Lord, God become human, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate, and when we fully appropriate this gift, we too will know with Paul and all the other saints of God what it means to live with a real Advent joy because it is all about God. God is faithful and he will do it. Do you believe this? However you answer this or wherever you are in your faith journey, I plead with you to start or continue to do the things we have talked about today in the power of the Spirit. When we learn what it means to have real joy, it means we also know we really do have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Fr. Ric Bowser: I’ll Take it from Here (NOT!)

Sermon delivered on Sunday, Advent 2B, December 7, 2014, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 40.1-11; Psalm 85.1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3.8-15a; Mark 1.1-8.

There is no text for this sermon. To listen to the sermon podcast, click here.

Jesus Creed: Advent with Tim Spivey

I preached on this last Sunday. See what you think.

Here are four practical reasons I think churches should celebrate Advent and Christmas:

1. Advent helps keep people on-track spiritually through the holidays. It isn’t OK for us to lament people’s “greed” and/or materialism at the holidays if we aren’t willing to lift up Christ in special ways during a season of temptation for people. It’s a great time to help reestablish a Kingdom perspective about money and possessions and call people to generosity—and to do so with great intentionality. We also have a special opportunity to help people understand the importance of incarnating the Gospel as they deal with personal and family difficulties throughout the season. I could go on here—but the point is the holidays are spiritually poignant and Advent provides a unique opportunity to pastor.

2. Advent focuses us on theological themes that should be central to who we are: incarnation and the Second Coming of Christ. Most Christians understand the importance of these two themes. However, one is “in” and one is “out” in theological circles these days. In particular, the Second Coming is something that needs much more emphasis—and Advent provides a fantastic opportunity to focus on our Great Hope.

Read it all.

Amy Julia Becker: Grateful for Graveyards

This woman gets it. Read and take heed. Please.

49928I do not want to see [grandma’s] ashes scattered to the wind, as if she has become an abstract being, at one with the universe. I want to remember her as someone with a body, a body vulnerable to sickness and death, a body that in its vulnerability was also open to love. And I want to be able to come back here, back to this particular place in this particular town, to visit her grave and the graves of the others who died before her.

We stand in a line with the coffin (“a bed inside a box for Nana’s body,” we told the kids) in front of us, supported by large metal poles over a rectangular hole in the ground. The hole in the ground offers a visual enactment of our common mortality—ashes to ashes and dust to dust. The graveyard itself acts as a testimony to the inevitability and finality of death. But as we stand together, the minister reads from Scripture. These ancient words of defiant comfort words hover above the coffin, holding out hope that this inevitable and final word has been overcome: “Where o death is thy victory? Where o grave is thy sting?”

We head to the church, where the emphasis turns to celebration. Together we remember and celebrate the life of this remarkable woman who died within one mile of her birthplace, who cooked countless casseroles for new mothers, cancer patients, and bereaved spouses, who invited dozens of new people over for dinner after meeting them for the first time on a Sunday morning, who lived a life of unassuming service to others, with much laughter along the way. Perhaps more importantly, together we celebrate the work God has done for us and for her. We celebrate not only because of the memories of love, but also through the particularly Christian hope of resurrection.

I am grateful for graveyards, for their unflinching testimony to the generations past, for their insistence that our bodies cannot live forever in spite of our medical advances and our attempts to defy aging and death. I am grateful that my children were introduced to death through this grief that was contained by hope. Most of all, though, I am grateful for the one whose body went into the grave and rose again.

Read and reflect on it all.

Taking the Advent Challenge

Sermon delivered on Advent Sunday A, November 30, 2014 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of this sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 64.1-9; Psalm 80.1-7, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 1.3-9; Mark 13.24-37.

Happy new year, St. Augustine’s! Today is Advent Sunday. We begin a new calendar year for the Church and have lighted the first purple candle on our wreath that represents the patriarchs. Advent comes from the Latin word, adventus (parousia in Greek), and means coming or arrival. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation in which the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation and also looks forward to his final advent as judge at the end of time. Advent is not part of the Christmas season but rather a preparation for it. It is an appropriate time to reflect on the Four Last Things—death, judgment, heaven, and hell, always popular things to talk about, especially in our culture today—and the related themes of yearning and judgment are prominent in our lectionary readings today. Therefore I want us to look at how these themes might affect the way we observe this Advent season.

Did you sense the themes of yearning and judgment that are intrinsic in all our lessons today? The prophet Isaiah begs the Lord to show himself so that all the world’s wrongs will be put to rights. The psalmist laments God’s seeming absence as he contemplates the defeat of God’s people. How else to explain why God’s people have been overrun by their enemies? Implicit in our epistle lesson is the notion that all is not right with God’s world. Otherwise, why would Paul assure us that God is faithful and will strengthen us so that we will be blameless when the Lord returns to judge the world who crucified him? And in our gospel lesson we see Jesus warning his disciples to be prepared for the unthinkable—the destruction of Jerusalem and God’s temple against which Jesus had earlier prophesied—so as not to be consumed by it.

Our experience as Christians living almost 2000 years later confirms that not much has changed with the world. We see our Christian brothers and sisters being slaughtered in the Middle East, our towns set afire, and closer to home we must endure as our loved ones suffer from various physical, emotional, and spiritual maladies. If you or a loved one have ever suffered from a potentially mortal disease or struggled with various kinds of addictions that corrupt and ultimately destroy if left unchecked, if you have been alienated from family or friends or have experienced financial ruin, to name just a few, you know instinctively why the prophet and psalmist cry out to God. When we are forced to walk through life’s darkest valleys, we cry out to God, begging him to make himself known to us so as to rescue us from our dark situations in dramatic fashion. After all, if God is loving and omnipotent isn’t this what God is supposed to do? And so we pray to God as Isaiah and the psalmist did. In other words, when we are walking in the darkest valleys it feels like God is either absent or has abandoned us, especially when our prayers go unanswered. This is a real dilemma and danger for God’s people in Christ because having to walk through dark valleys and having some of our prayers go unanswered can shake our faith to the core and make us wonder if God really does love us. We simultaneously yearn for God’s love and rescue while wondering why God would allow us and our loved ones to experience such darkness in the first place.

I can hear you now. Ah, Father Maney! We’re so glad you’re back after a week’s hiatus. We missed your feel-good sermons and are delighted to hear you delivering yet another one! Do you happen to have an ice-pick we can put to our head? Bear with me, please. I would much rather be talking about Santa Claus coming to town, etc., at this time of year but that is not the way the world works and I have rehearsed this grim picture to help us all see (or begin to see) why this season of Advent is so important to us.

The yearning for God that we experience comes from the fact that we live in a good world gone bad and we as Americans have have lost sight of this fact. Please don’t misunder-stand. There is much beauty and grace in this world. We cannot look into the eyes of our beloved or a new-born baby or gaze on a breathtaking sunset and not understand this truth. But the fact is that as Genesis 3.1-19 starkly reminds us, human sin entered God’s good creation to corrupt and defile it and to allow evil an opening in which to operate. But many of us have not come to grips with this awful truth. Because of our wealth and power, we see bouts of evil that confront us regularly as anomalies, not as an inherent part of life. So, for example, we see health and wealth and happiness and a struggle-free life as the norm and expect these things.

But this is not the biblical view of the world. Rather, the writers of Scripture were realists and they understood that human sin and the evil it helped unleash are not anomalies but rather part and parcel of daily life. Again, this is not to say that there are not moments of happiness and joy and love and success. Of course there are. But these are a result of God’s love and grace, not something that comes automatically. And so when evil smacks us in the face, we don’t know what to do with it and this is why we yearn for God to show himself so that he will put to rights all the evil and injustice and suffering and death that goes on in his world and our lives.

And here is where the season of Advent becomes so important because it is an oppor-tunity for us to begin to lose our delusional thinking about what living in a fallen world looks like. Often times it is not pretty so that perhaps, for example, we ought to look at our health not as something that is the norm but rather as a product of God’s grace, love, and mercy toward us. When we start to think realistically (not pessimistically as we shall see in a minute) about living in a sin-sick world, we are on the road to understanding why we need a season like Advent.

Having a realistic worldview will also help us as Christians understand the true nature and purpose of God’s judgment that is pronounced in our lessons today. Yes, we should have a healthy fear of God’s judgment on our sins because our sins are a huge reason why we live in a broken and corrupted world. But if we think it through for a moment, we realize that God’s judgment has a positive dimension to it because when God finally judges our sins and all the world’s wrongs, God will put everything to rights so that his curse will be removed along with all that is wrong with God’s world. No wonder the psalmist tells us that when God finally judges the world the heavens will sing, the earth will rejoice, and even the trees of the forest will sing (Psalm 96.10-13)! No wonder Paul tells us that all creation waits with eager longing for Jesus’ people to be raised and redeemed at the final judgment because only then will the bondage and decay to which it has been subjected finally be removed forever (Romans 8.18-23). So the first thing that we must note about God’s final judgment of the world is that it is for our good. As Christians, we are to stand in sorrow and reverent awe of God’s terrible judgment but not fear it.

Why? Because we believe that God has answered the yearning of our hearts to come and live with his people. But unlike the mighty act of deliverance God worked for his people Israel as he rescued them from their slavery in Egypt, God ultimately answered our yearning hearts for his good presence and justice by coming to us as a human being that we celebrate at Christmas. And as we reflect on this awesome mystery, we begin to realize that God has answered our prayers in a totally unexpected way.

Instead of rendering a final judgment on us all, a judgment that must sweep us all away because all of us are stained with sin, God came to us first in Jesus of Nazareth to confront and defeat sin and evil by dying on a cross (Colossians 2.14-15). God has answered our prayers of yearning for his good justice and love by dying on a cross so as to condemn our sin in the flesh by taking it on himself so that we do not have to suffer God’s righteous condemnation. That is why Paul could make the remarkable statement that there is now no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1-4). And that is why we no longer need to fear God’s right judgment because we are reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus shed for us on the cross and transferred from the dominion of evil into the kingdom and light of his beloved Son (Colossians 1.13-14, 19-20). We know this is true because God raised Jesus from the dead to vindicate him and to usher in the end time in which we live.

Now most of us want to shout at this point, “But nothing apparently has changed!” That’s right. But the key word is apparently because the fact is we do not have God’s knowledge, eternal perspective, or wisdom. There is lots going on that we cannot see or comprehend. But unless we are willing to call God a liar, we had better develop the needed humility to trust God’s promises because all of our lessons today in one way or another affirm God’s faithfulness.

Not only do we have the cross and Jesus’ resurrection, which were one-off events, we also have our Lord Jesus’ continuing presence with us in the person of the Holy Spirit to remind us that God is faithful so we can believe his promise to equip us to live as his people and to be with us so that we have assurance that we do not have to navigate through our dark valleys alone. This is what Paul was talking about in our epistle lesson. God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus and gives us his Spirit so that we will be found blameless at the final judgment and in the meantime find the strength to live faithfully and navigate through our dark valleys confident that the Lord loves us and has not abandoned us.

Now of course on one level God’s rescue plan in Jesus is bound to disappoint because it is not always obvious to us that God is at work to rescue us nor do we not get to see God face-to-face as we will one day in the new creation. That is the main reason why our hearts will always yearn for God and his goodness while we live in this mortal body of ours. But our yearning is not a bad thing because its very existence indicates that God is present to us in the power of the Spirit! And this is why the season of Advent is so important to us because it gives us a chance to ponder these mysteries and bolster our faith and response to God’s love for us.

One day God will indeed tear open the heavens and appear. This is a promise that runs through both the OT and NT. But we can take heart and hope because we believe that God has done all that is necessary for us to be found blameless on that day when he restores his good creation to its original goodness beyond our imagining and our yearning hearts will be no more.

In the meantime, let us use this Advent season to ponder and embrace God’s promise to us through a renewed focus on prayer, the study of Scripture, worship, self-reflection, and repentance. Let us come weekly to his Table to feed on our risen Lord’s body and blood and so be reminded that we are not abandoned and that God really has defeated evil and sin. And from this, let us find the strength to embody God’s love for us to the world in our daily lives so that we can be living signs to the world that God’s victory over evil is won in the life and death of Jesus, whose birth we eagerly await to celebrate this Christmas. Doing so may not remove us from our dark valley, but it will remind us our longing for God’s goodness has been answered and that he is always available to us to strengthen and encourage us in the midst of our trials in ways we do not always expect.

This then is the challenge of Advent. As we live in a fallen world that is full of heartache and wrongs, do we really believe with Paul that in all things God works for good for those who love him (Romans 8.28)? This takes great faith because as we have seen, the outworking of God’s good purposes is not always obvious or evident to us. But it is the consistent promise of Scripture and the witness of countless Christians that God really is present and working for his good, even when we cannot see or comprehend it. This Advent may God use the yearning of our hearts to renew our faith, hope, and love so that we will know and act like we really do have Good News, now and for all eternity. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bishop Roger Ames’ Advent Letter

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Greetings in the name of the Lord who is coming into our midst!

Is There Any Room at the Inn?

How will you welcome Jesus this Christmas?

So many voices and images compete for our attention, our time, and our energy. There are literally thousands of advertisements and applications out there promising to make us happy, to help us get ahead, or to solve our problems.

Now, all of these devices keep us plugged in, and that has some real benefits. But at the same time, the more plugged in we are, the less reflective we can become. We are less apt to stand back and ask, “What is my life really about?”

This is one reason why the season of Advent is such a blessing. During these four weeks, we are invited to cut back on the noise—and at just the right time. As the world tends to get noisier, God asks us to spend a little more time in quiet prayer, reflecting on the greatest gift ever given to us.

Too Busy for God? It’s not only the noise that threatens to overwhelm us. Our many priorities and responsibilities consume our energy as well. Work can be demanding. Family obligations and activities, while good and upbuilding, can drain us—not to mention any community activities, schoolwork, and exercise commitments we have made.

Life can become so very busy—to the point where we can feel overcommitted, worn down, and stressed out. It’s ironic, but the faster we move, the less time we seem to have. The more we accomplish, the less fulfilled we feel. And when we finally do decide to get a better handle on our lives, we can’t seem to find the time to reflect on our lives or make any significant changes.

Read it all.

GAFCON Chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala’s, Advent Letter

We look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’  (2 Corinthians 4:18)

My dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’.

During this Advent Season we shall be preparing for the joyful celebration of the first coming of our Lord Jesus, but let us also rejoice that we have the promise of his second coming in glorious majesty as Lord, Saviour and Judge, and be willing to stake our lives on what we do not yet see, the fulfilment of the promises of God.

It was this confidence that kept the Apostle Paul from despair despite all the setbacks and suffering of his apostolic ministry and with deep insight he cuts right through earth bound ways of thinking when he writes ‘For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal’ (2 Corinthians 4:18).

This is a truly radical perspective. It brings our lives into line with what is ultimately real and gives us a hope that is not defeated by immediate challenges and loss. This is true whatever the crisis that confronts us and we must continue to pray for those whose lives have been devastated by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, but the difference biblical hope makes is seen most clearly when persecution and violence are unleashed.

As I write these letters, I find that very often I need to emphasise the need to pray for and stand with our bothers and sisters who are experiencing heart-rending suffering as radical Islamic influence grows in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Here in Kenya, al-Shabab gunmen have just murdered twenty-eight non-Muslim passengers from a bus they ambushed in northern Kenya. In some parts of the world Christian communities now live with the constant threat of violent death. One of the most shocking attacks in recent weeks was the burning alive of a young Pakistani Christian man Sajjeed Mashah and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi in a brick kiln near Lahore. How do Christian communities manage to carry on in such circumstances unless they look to ‘the things that are unseen’? As we pray for those who suffer, let us resolve to be of the same mind and to be faithful to Christ wherever he has placed us.

The threat of atrocity is now truly global. Following the jihadist killing of a young soldier on duty at Canada’s national war memorial in Ottawa, I was moved by the gentle yet bold response of Bishop Charlie Masters, recently appointed Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). He spoke of shock and grief, but also how the founding fathers had named the country and he said  “they called it the Dominion of Canada, based on Psalm 72:8 ‘he shall have dominion from sea to sea…’ and that was speaking about the Lord Jesus, that he has dominion in this country”. For Bishop Charlie, part of the response to this murder was national repentance to bring the country back to its founders’ vision. The dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ is a reality unrecognized by many, but one day all creation will bow the knee and the greatest service we can do for our nations is to win them for Jesus Christ by the proclamation of the glorious gospel of the Prince of Peace.

Read it all.