Advent and the Christmas Surprise
The four Sundays of Advent feature readings that exhort us to a spirit of repentance in awareness of the imminence of Christ’s return.
The season of Advent itself prepares us for the coming of Christ, as the term ‘advent’ itself signifies, but the structure and composition of the Church Year at this juncture is such that more emphasis is always placed on the return of Christ in glory at the Last Day than on his incarnation and birth at Christmas. As such, Christmas comes as something of a thematic surprise. Having provided an abundance of exhortation anticipating Christ’s return, the pleasant shift at Christmas is intended to lead us to gratitude for the mercy of God in this meek and holy incarnation for us. He did not come, as we might have expected, were we to listen only to the instant and urgent admonitions of Advent, to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him (see St. John 3:17).
This somewhat jarring thematic surprise that is noticeable when Christmas follows Advent is certainly more noticeable when Easter follows Lent. In the latter case, the Church is led to and through the Passion of Our Lord finally to his miserable death on Good Friday, only to become overjoyed again on Easter Sunday in an abundance of celebration. In that case there was actually quite a bit of utter surprise and thrill in the hearts of the disciples, who had just forsaken Jesus and fled in terror and grief. The case of Advent and Christmas is less of a shift, but it also reflects a very real surprise nonetheless. For in truth the message of the prophets was mixed. Although they had repeatedly made clear the joy that would commence with the coming incarnation of our Lord, saying, for instance, “the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads” (Isaiah 35:10), they had also warned repeatedly that the coming of Christ would be as a day “that shall burn as an oven” when “all the proud, yea, and all they that do wickedly, shall be stubble” (Malachi 4:1). And although we now know that the Lord’s coming is split between his first coming, in mercy, and his second coming, in judgment, that did quite become clear until the day when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. Thus, it was something of a happy shock, or surprise. And so also, liturgically speaking, Christmas comes as a glad surprise at the end of Advent. Well does the Apostle then encourage us, on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). For we know that this surprise is but a foretaste of the abundance of surprise that shall gladden our hearts on the Day of Days, more than we can even imagine, when we shall finally enjoy the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
+ Pastor Eckardt
Two Christ Masses
The number of Christ Masses this year is being reduced to two: the first, as usual, will be on Christmas Eve at 7:00; the Midnight mass is cancelled; and then as usual there will be a mass on Christmas morning at 10:00.
Improvements in Organ Accompaniments Continue
Our newly established practice of organ playing has been, as most of you are aware, to make use of my own keyboard capability for accompaniment on Sunday mornings.
Here, first, is a rundown of what has been done up until now. First I play a prelude on our Casavant Organ, usually comprised of an improvisational arrangement of a hymn, usually using the opening hymn and sometimes also the hymn of the day. Then, after the bells are rung we sing the opening hymn itself with my accompaniment on the organ. Following this the bells are rung a second time as I come down from the balcony for the procession which is done in silence. This I have found to be a rather nice form of silent and sublime preparation, as I suspect most have noticed as well. As we enter the Divine Service the musical parts are sung a capella, except for the remaining hymns. For the hymn of the day I walk to the back (again in silence) to use the electronic keyboard and direct the choir for intervening stanzas. Next I return to the chancel for the rest. The organ accompaniment of the remaining (distribution and closing) hymns are played with a pre-recording. This arrangement, in my own opinion, has been working fairly well, though there have been a few occasional errors that needed to be cleared up.
Going forward, I have been working on recordings of some additional accompaniments, especially the canticles. When this is complete, I hope to be able to add this element, in which case you will have accompaniment for the Kyrie, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Sanctus, the Preface, and the Nunc Dimittis. The Introit, Gradual, and Verse will still be a cappella (unaccompanied), with the leading of our choir, as we have been doing for several years. I hope to have this addition ready within a few weeks.
+ Pastor Eckardt
First Tuesday Meetings Dec. 1
On Tuesday, December 1st, Altar Guild meets as usual at 6 pm, and Elders at 7:15 pm. Between them we will hold vespers at 6:45 pm. All members invited to vespers.
Choir Rehearsals Scheduled
Some choir rehearsals are scheduled in preparation for Christmas. Choir members, please put these Wednesdays in December on your calendar: December 2nd and 16th after midweek mass, and December 23rd at 7:00 p.m., as there is no mass scheduled that day. We will not rehearse on the 9th, due to the party at the Eckardts’ that day, but we will be caroling before mass. See the note nearby.
Monroe Kemerling is at home; Emmy Wear is at Williamsfield Home in Williamsfield; Emilie Ricknell is at home; Dick Melchin is at Hammond Henry Extended Care in Geneseo; Dale Baker is at home; and Bea Harris is occasionally at home.
Cookie Walk Sunday Dec. 13th
Bring a batch of cookies to Bible Class on the 13th, and prepare to exchange for others. Cookie walk after church! Bible class follows.
Caroling and Party Dec. 9th
We plan to go caroling on Wednesday, December 9th. Meet at the church at 5 p.m. We will visit some shut-ins, and end up at the church for Mass at 7. Afterwards all are invited to the Eckardts’ annual Christmas Party at their home.
The Bell Tolls
On the last Sunday of the year, we customarily toll the bell at prayers for each member of our parish who has died during the year. We remember this year one member who fell asleep in Christ:
Special Masses Wednesdays
Our 7 p.m. Wednesday masses during Advent will be emphasizing the narratives of St. Luke 1 that are written in preparation for the nativity of our Lord reported in St. Luke 2. Come prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas, at the End of the World, and at the Altar.
Wednesday Advent masses:
There is no Wednesday mass scheduled for December 23rd, the day before Christmas Eve. On December 9th we will also have caroling and a party, as explained in a nearby article.
There is also no Wednesday mass scheduled for December 30th, the day before New Year’s Eve, a Thursday, on which mass will be held at 7 p.m.
Steve Kraklow, Tom Wells, Jim Hornback.
12/11 Kris Harden
12/13 Michael Eckardt
Decorating During Advent
As is our custom, we decorate little by little during Advent, until finally all is complete for Christmas. This year we plan to put up the Advent wreath on Saturday, November 28th, for Advent I. Then on Saturday, December 5th we will put up the Christmas tree (extra volunteers are sought for this), for Advent II. On Saturday, December 12th we will put up any remaining decorations needed, for Advent III, except that the array of poinsettias will not be set out until Christmas Eve.
Advent III (Sunday, December 13th) is also called “Gaudete” or Joy Sunday, set in the midst of Advent. Roses are customarily set in place if available, and the pink candle on the wreath is lit.
If you can, please put Saturday December 5th on your calendar to help with the tree. It’s an opportunity for gathering with your fellow members for a little project.
The council will be meeting on Wednesday, December 16th which is the usual third Wednesday.
Please make a note of it.
Trustees and the Building
In November, a locksmith came to fix the door between the school basement and the basement under the church, which was mysteriously found locked. A key could not be found, as this door had not been locked in a very long time. The locksmith opened it and it now has no lock, being a fire door that doesn’t need one. Some heavy rainfall during November became a good opportunity to look for leaks and check if our repairs held. No leaks were found. So perhaps the efforts to plug leaks were successful after all. Also, outside windowsills were touched up with white paint.
In Our Prayers
Our current list of prayer intentions at mass includes the names on the lists here following. Anyone wishing to update the list by addition or subtraction, please inform the pastor.
in our parish:
Emilie Ricknell, John Ricknell, Linda Rowe, Emmy Wear, Sue Murphy, Don Murphy, Dick Melchin, DeAnne Anderson, Bea Harris, Allan Kraklow, Sandra VerPlaetse, Monroe Kemerling, John Sovanski, Gail and Phil Beauprez, Tara Wagenknecht
and beyond our parish:
Anna Rutowicz [granddaughter of Harrises]
Katy Rutowicz [granddaughter of Harrises]
Jody Rutowicz [Harrises’ daughter]
Julie Ross [Svetlana Meaker’s daughter]
Elizabeth Godke [Sharon Field’s mother]
Brandt and Oneida Hendrickson [Ricknells’ relatives]
Janice Hart [Judy Thompson’s sister]
Caleb Cleaver [Ricknells’ grandson]
Dennis Hoag [Adam Shreck’s father-in-law]
Rachel Smith [Emmy Wear’s cousin]
Matthew and Yvette Baker [Dale’s son and wife]
Warren Williams [relative of the Kemerlings]
Theresa Moore [Ricknells’ niece]
Carol Grigsby [friend of Jewneel Walker]
Tim Newman [Kemerling relation]
Melinda Fisa [Monroe Kemerling’s granddaughter]
Kathy Boeger [re Harrises]
Allison Leezer [relative of the Kraklows]
Floretta Reynolds [Jim Watson’s aunt]
Dana Conley [relative of the Kraklows]
Roger Wear [Emmy’s father]
Les Murphy [re Murphys]
Bud Harfst [Sue Murphy’s brother]
Everly Stoner, great grandchild of the Murphys
John Molburg [re Sandra VerPlaetse]
Jeff Lewis [re Eckardts]
in the military:
Donny Appleman [at request of the Ricknells]
Richard Heiden [at request of the Eckardts]
Luke Van Landigan [grandson of Dick Melchin]
Jaclyn Alvarez [daughter of Kris Harden]
Eli Wetzel [at request of Kris Harden]
Traven Wetzel [at request of Kris Harden]
Eric Verplaetse [Sandra’s grandson]
James Jr. and Ann Ley Armstrong
any unborn children in danger of abortion
those suffering from unrest, persecution, and imprisonment in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Uganda, Sudan, Nigeria, India, China, Vietnam, North Korea, and elsewhere
Persecution details may be found at www.persecution.net.
New Year’s Mass:
New Year’s Eve mass is 7 pm on December 31st. We observe the Circumcision and Name of Jesus (January 1st).
Saints Days in December
St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) falls on a Sunday this year, and therefore is commemorated only with a second Collect. So also, St. Lucia’s Day falls on a Sunday (December 13th), and therefore likewise is commemorated only with a second Collect. December 21st is St. Thomas’ Day, and as this is a Monday we will not observe it here. The same goes for St. Stephen’s Day, December 26th, because it falls on a Saturday, the day after Christmas. St. John the Apostle and Evangelist’s Day (December 27th) falls on Sunday, and takes precedence over the Sunday after Christmas, so it is observed. Holy Innocents (December 28th) falls on a Monday, so is not observed here.
Coming Up: Epiphany Seminar on Saturday, January 9th, 2021
A day of reflection is planned for Saturday, January 9th, 2021. To open the seminar we will have mass at 9:00 in the morning. A seminar will follow. Here is the schedule:
9:00 a.m. Mass: during the octave of Epiphany
10:00 a.m. - noon Seminar (day of reflection):
The twentieth retreat in the Theological Reflection series is entitled,
“INTERPRETING AND PRAYING THE PSALMS”
The Book of Psalms is a central feature of Christian worship and life. But how are we to understand it? And, consequently, how are we to pray using its words? The Psalms were Jesus’ own prayer book. They were frequently in the minds of the Gospel and Epistle writers. And they are used in every mass, in the Introit and Gradual. Some of them are ubiquitous: on greeting cards, on social media, usually used for comfort of some kind.
In what way are they Christological? How are we to pray, for instance, Psalm 22: “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Or the imprecatory psalms which call for judgment upon one’s enemies? How are they Christological? Do we need a list of which ones are Messianic? What’s the significance of their being written primarily by David? So many question need answers if we are best to benefit from our use of the Psalter. Join us as we explore.
Altar Guild Notes
Advent begin the last Sunday in November. The four Advent Sundays’ color is violet. If roses are obtained, they may be placed for the Third Sunday in Advent, December 12th.
For midweek masses, the color remains violet. For Christmas Eve, the first Mass is at 7 p.m., and the color is changed to white. There is no Midnight Mass scheduled this year. On Christmas Day there is a 10 am mass. Color is white for both.
The Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist is held on the Sunday after Christmas, December 27th. Color remains white. New Year’s Eve mass is held at 7 pm on the 31st. Color is white and remains white in January. No mass is scheduled for St. Stephen (26 December) or Holy Innocents (28 December) this year.
St. Paul’s Online
Our masses may be accessed online at www.facebook.com. Go to our page St. Paul’s and Friends, where you can find livestream and recordings of our masses.
In addition, our church’s website is www.stpaulskewanee.org, and it is very active. Twice a week there is usually a new post in the “Sermons” section, as a synopsis of the most recent sermon is given, with a link to the audio of the Gospel and sermon that you can listen to whenever you want, or share with your friends. Our newsletter is also posted at the website.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443
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