It’s amazing how time flies. I sound like an old man, I know, but it’s true! Time passes quickly, especially at this time of year. It seems like only yesterday that Anna and I came to visit with you all on June 10th, and already we’ve been together for four months. And you haven’t ran me off! Amazing!
Seriously though, it seems strange to say that I’ve been among you now for four months. And it has been a great four months; I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, as I hope you have. And as quickly as these first four months have passed, I’m sure the next four will seem to go by even faster. We are coming up on that time of the year where the pace starts to pick up for the holidays, where the calendar drips with ink from all the events and many of us begin to find it difficult to even breathe because of the numerous activities and preparations.
It is a blessed irony that just as our lives become more busy and our society thrusts event upon event on us, the Christian year actually comes to a point of preparation, a time of reflection. I know that we’re just past Halloween and All Saints (which we will be celebrating this Sunday), but before we know it the first weekend in December will be upon us, and with it the season of Advent and the beginning of a new Christian year. So I want to encourage you to prepare for Advent, to prepare for this time of preparation, by taking the time to slow down a bit, by refusing to get caught up in the pressure and stress that can make this season so difficult. Instead, consider this Sunday’s celebration of All Saints, and the coming Thanksgiving holiday, a time to remember what is important in your life, to think about old friends and family and to consider the ways in which you’ve been blessed. After all, isn’t that what the spirit of the season is supposed to be all about?
This Sunday during the sermon time I will be talking about the fact that the Church is a community of contradiction, and why that is a good thing and a blessing. Christians are a people of contradictions, and one of the ways we exhibit this most visibly, when we are at our best, is in refusing to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and the angst surrounding it and instead refocusing on the reason we call this whole time of year the “holy-day season.”
The understanding of Christians as a peculiar people and the Church as a commiunity of contradiction–that is, a community that contradicts many of the assumptions of the broader society–comes from the fact that we as Christians share in a story and self-understanding that is far different from the one we see and hear everyday in the broader society. To help us refocus on the fantastic and awesome nature of this story, of who we are as Christians and why we are here (and why it matters), I have planned a series of four sermons for Advent entitled “The Truth That God Imagines.”
I encourage you to invite your friends to church during this time because I think the topics covered in this series will be of great interest to non-Christians and non-Churchgoers (not always synonymous, as many of you know) as well as our community at St. Francis. One of the points of this series is to put the celebration of Christmas in context and I pray it will be beneficial to all who attend.
I believe we are entering a time of renewal at St. Francis, and I encourage all of you to redouble your prayers for our church family. I also want to thank you all for everything you do to make this a faithful and loving community. Recently I was reading about the great missionary and evangelist to India, E. Stanley Jones who, it is said, never refered to himself as a Christian, but only a “Christian-in-the-making.” I thank God that he has brought us together so that we can discern what it means to follow Jesus in our daily lives as chaotic as they can be, and to be a faithful congregation in the midst of a Church that is often equally chaotic.
Your servant in Christ,