How the year has flown by! And now we come to Christmas. But before Christmas comes there is Advent, the four weeks of preparation for the Christmas festival. Advent means Coming, and during Advent we reflect on the three comings of our Lord: His coming in great humility as the Child of Mary, His coming to us now in His Word and in the holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood, His coming again in glory at the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Although the world is already celebrating its version of Christmas, the Church keeps these four weeks as a time of repentance, of prayer, of quiet expectation.
This year we have a situation which occurs about once in every seven years. The Fourth Sunday in Advent falls on December 24th; the Divine Service on the morning of that day is an Advent service. Strictly speaking, the Church should not be decorated for Christmas until the Fourth Sunday in Advent has been kept. But the fact of the matter, whether we like it or not, is that few people will come to church on the morning of the 24th. And so for this year only the Church will be decorated for Christmas after the Divine Service on the previous Sunday, December 17th. Yet the service on the morning of the 24th is an Advent service. And so the lights on the trees and in the windows and at crèche will not be lit. The altar paraments and vestments will be the purple of Advent. Only after the service will the altar frontal be changed to white and the poinsettias put in place
Our celebration of Christmas begins with the Festival Divine Service of Christmas Eve which will be held at 7:30 P.M. Our celebration of Christmas then continues on the First Sunday after Christmas Day, New Year’s Day which is the Festival of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus, and Epiphany which this year will be kept on Epiphany Eve, January 5th. That service will be at 7:30 P.M. The New Year’s Day service will be held at 10:00 A.M. We live in a secular age so absorbed in its frenzied activities that the Lord Christ and His Church are crowded out or fitted in “if possible”! I hope and pray that many of you will seize the opportunity to celebrate this holy season with its message of hope that can never be put to shame and joy which has no end. This is after all the Birthday of the Lord Jesus! Apart from dire necessity no Christian should absent himself or herself from the Christ Mass, the worship which in fact gives this feast its name! The shepherds found the Lord Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. We find Him in the hallowed bread and cup that are the Body born of Mary and His precious Blood. In preparation for your Christmas Communion, examine your conscience in the light of the Ten Commandments and their meaning as given in the Catechism; review the Christian Questions with Their Answers also found in the Catechism. Then come with a penitent and joyful heart to the altar which is our Bethlehem. “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread,” for us the hallowed bread of the Sacrament.
I am sure that everyone who attended the Choral Vespers on Sunday, November 19th, was truly uplifted by this wonderful service in celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, the 125th Anniversary of Our Saviour, and Dr. Luther’s birthday (November 10). Our guest organist, Matthew Gerhardt, showed himself to be a wonderfully talented musician not least in his thrilling accompaniment of the hymns. We were also fortunate to have three singers from the Peabody Conservatory – our own organist Marie Herrington, Emma van Zuyle, Adam Eydelson, together with our own cantor Paul Techau. We are truly blessed with Marie Herrington as our organist and occasional soloist. She is a truly gifted musician and we are fortunate indeed to have her. God gives us many blessings. I must also thank Mr. Hawkins, Mary Techau, and all who helped with the delightful reception following the service.
Do remember in your prayers those whose names appear each Sunday in the bulletin. I ask your prayers especially for Marian Purviance who is beginning a new course of treatment, also for Judy Volkman who has had her elbow replaced after a fall. Helen Gray was briefly hospitalized but is at home again.
Peter James Buchanan, the husband of Bertha Buchanan, fell asleep in the Lord on Tuesday, November 28th, at Union Memorial Hospital. There will be a visitation on Tuesday, December 5th, from 4:00 to 8:00 P.M. at the Chatman Harris Funeral Home West at 5240 Reisterstown Road. On Wednesday, December 6th, the funeral service will be held at 11:00 A.M. at the Edgewood United Methodist Church, 1434 Bellona Avenue, in Lutherville. A wake will be held at 10:30 A.M. May our risen Lord comfort all who mourn his departure with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. May the Light perpetual ever shine upon him!
We continue our works of mercy. On November 2 coats, hats, and scarves were distributed to needy families connected with the Waverly School. Elsewhere in this newsletter is information on other works of mercy.
The Ednor Gardens/Lakeside Association had its meeting for elections and a delightful potluck supper on Tuesday, November 21st. The Association has for some years met here.
The process of having our Church placed on the register of historic buildings should soon come to its happy conclusion – perhaps by Christmas.
At the Choral Vespers on November 19th the meditation included some wonderful words from the sermon which Dr. Luther preached in Saint Mary’s Church in Wittenberg on the afternoon of Christmas Day 1530:
“In my sin, in my death, I must take leave of all created things. Sun, moon, stars, all creatures…cannot help me. When I die I shall see nothing but thick darkness, and yet that light, ‘To you is born this day the Savior [Luke 2:11], remains in my eyes and fills all heaven and earth. The Savior will help me when all have forsaken me. And when the heavens and the stars and all creatures stare at me with terrible mien, I see nothing in heaven and earth but this Child…For, if it is true that the Child was born of the virgin and is mine, then I have no angry God and I must know and feel that there is nothing but laughter and joy in the heart of the Father and no sadness in my heart. For, if what the angel says is true, that He is our Lord and Savior, what can sin do against us? ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ [Romans 8:31].”
As we again approach Christmas we are painfully aware of the reality of human sin and the malice of Satan, and so more than ever we need to take to heart the good news of the Child in whom there is forgiveness of sins and deliverance from death and the devil. In faith we embrace Him.
God bless us in this Advent season and bring us to a joyful Christmas!
Works of Mercy
On November 21, we delivered turkeys and thanksgiving provisions to seven families in our church community. We were prepared to deliver baskets to two additional families, but were unable to locate the families. Looking forward to our Christmas food drive, we have one turkey, and enough food for two families. In order to take care of our Christmas families we need the following items: canned yams, mac and cheese, string beans, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc. The bulk of the cost of Thanksgiving food came from donations from our soup supers. Many thanks to all of our food contributors, and to Mr. Hawkins for his invaluable assistance with packing and delivery.
We plan to deliver grooming items to the men at Helping Up Mission during the week of December 17. To the extent that you are able, please bring gift items, such as, socks (any size), underwear, t-shirts, washcloths, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, and lotion. These items are always needed and they will be greatly appreciated. In addition to new wearing apparel, the Mission will gladly accept clean, gently used men’s wear.
– Quilla Downs