Last Sunday a group of about 25 people gathered in the Fellowship Hall to go out into neighborhoods to carol. We split into three groups, two went to Westminster Canterbury and one went to the Colonnades and nearby church members. In all, we made 14 caroling stops and spread unmeasurable joy. Jackie Brownfield hosted our last stop with food for the hard working carolers. Thank you to Jackie for her hospitality, and to Carolyn Kelly for her help organizing the Westminster Canterbury visits.
Sunday, December 31—First Sunday of Christmas, worship service, 11:00 a.m.
Sunday, January 7—Epiphany of the Lord, worship service, 11:00 a.m.
Advent and Christmas arrive with a sense of anticipation and wondering what this year will bring. Indeed, like many of you, one of my childhood memories on Christmas Eve and morning was being handed a brightly colored package with my name on it and having no idea of what lay inside. A Christmas gift wrapped in ribbon and paper and waiting under the tree, invites mystery.
In our family, before opening a gift, often another family member would prod the recipient to speculate on the gift’s contents: “Are you going to eat it? Hang it on your wall? Wear it? Play with it? Share it with us?” Such questions served to heighten a child’s excitement and peak everyone’s curiosity. Of course, as a way of deducing the mystery, we might hold the gift in our hands to feel its weight or shake it up and down and side to side, hoping the rattling noise within will give us a clue.
What could it be? What is this unique gift meant for you and me?
This year, during the Advent and Christmas season, every Sunday morning, as we come to worship God, we will immediately see a mysterious gift sitting on the Communion Table. And every Sunday, there will be a different gift inside meant for us to take home. Four Sundays of Advent! Four gifts to remind us again of the meaning of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel!” But more so, a gift to guide and inform our Christian spirituality as we seek the star over Bethlehem: a gift of love, a gift of challenge, a gift of growth and a gift of joy.
Then on Christmas Eve night, there will be one more gift for us to open: the gift of new birth. Come and join us for the season of Advent and Christmas at Westminster as we unwrap the gifts of the Spirit and leave each Sunday praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to all people.” (Luke 2:14)
This week the adult choir sings two anthems for Advent, both recent settings of much older texts. The first, “Drop down, ye heavens, from above” by the British composer Judith Weir (b. 1954), sets a portion of an ancient text known as the Advent Prose, or in Latin, Rorate caeli desuper. This text, a compilation of verses from the book of Isaiah, is traditionally ascribed to the fourth-century Aurelius Clemens Prudentius. Weir currently serves as Master of the Queen’s Music. The second anthem is a setting of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree,” a poem which first appeared in a London magazine in 1761. The first hymnal to include the poem, however, was published in America, in New Hampshire in 1784. The apple tree as a metaphor for Christ is unusual, but in line with references in Song of Songs and in Revelations to trees as metaphors. Christ as apple tree also conforms to Paul’s designation of Christ as the “second Adam” — since the first Adam fell by way of an apple tree, the second – the tree of life – must redeem humanity. The choir sings a version by American composer Daniel Pinkham (1923-2006).
Sunday, December 17—Caroling, 3:00 p.m.
All are welcome to join in song and share carols with those in our congregation in need of Christmas cheer. Gather in the Fellowship Hall to get directions and song sheets. We will head out in cars to various locations and end up at Jackie Brownfield’s house for one last caroling stop and refreshments. Last year we were able to have two groups of carolers head out in different directions to spread even more joy. We hope you will consider participating in this special ministry.