On this fourth Sunday in Advent, we will light the third blue candle, the Angels’ Candle. The aspect of our spiritual preparation for the coming of our Lord that it represents is peace. The peace that the angels proclaim is not that of tranquility and quiet; it is God’s peace, the coming of His kingdom in its fullness-bringing justice, mercy, and plenteous provision for all creation.
In our gospel lesson, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. The angel’s message could not have been clear or easy or even especially good news at the time for this young woman. Yet her response to Gabriel is “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” God’s peace and God’s Good News are met with rejoicing and trust, but also with willingness to accept challenge and risk.
The events leading up to Jesus’s birth will be enacted for us in The Liturgy of the Word this Sunday in our annual children’s Christmas Pagaent. Although the format and most of the music remain the same each year (and, of course, the story is the same), this worship experience is new each year because our children make it so. New faces join us, and familiar faces grow up. Perspectives and observations change and grow. We expect the unexpected. The one absolute constant is the joy our children bring to our preparation for the coming of the Christ Child among us. As we note every year, our children show us the way to Bethlehem.
Following the Eucharist, our children will again lead us-this time in procession to our new nursery space. We will offer a blessing prayer for its use, and then during the hospitality time we will move toys and prepare the new space for use beginning on Christmas Eve. Everyone is invited, as you are able, to bring an offering for the space: a check to help defray the costs of renovation, a new toy, or a picture or decorative item.
We will also begin the Greening of the Cathedral on Sunday after worship-moving poinsettias, wreaths, and greenery into the church to help the Flower Guild prepare for their work on Monday.
In all of these ways, this Sunday will begin our final stage of getting ready for the celebration of Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve. Our traditional Festival Eucharist will be preceded by 45 minutes of musical prelude, beginning at 4:15 p.m. This year this will also include some congregational hymn singing! Our service will begin at 5:00 p.m. This is always a wonderful timeless time of gathered families, beginning a season of new birth together in our Christ Church home.
I would also commend to you the 10:00 a.m. service on Christmas Day. This is a quiet and powerful way to greet the day and ground ourselves in Christ’s presence in the midst of activities with family and friends. There will be music: we will sing hymns, and Christopher and Katie Powell will offer their musical gifts.
In these last busy days before Christmas, I hope we all make time each day for continuing Sabbath through rest and reflection, prayer and scripture, so that we will be ready to greet our Savior with joy and welcome Him into the room made ready in our hearts.
The Very Reverend Beverly F. Gibson
Christ Church Cathedral