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Advent Pastoral Letter 2023 Image

Advent Pastoral Letter 2023

November 9, 2023

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel . . .

December 8, 2023

Dear Friends,

Advent blessings and greetings to you in the Lord Jesus Christ! The season of Advent marks the beginning of a new Christian year, and thus we begin again another cycle of liturgical seasons, of Sundays, Holy Days, Feasts, Fasts, Days of Abstinence and Commemorations throughout the year, in which we are drawn deeper, individually and corporately, into the saving mystery of God in Christ. Such is the Church’s ordering of time, which means for us to be consecrated in the eternal Word. Such is the re-ordering of our love, which points us always to Christ, who is the final revelation of God’s love, and the first principle of whatever is lovely in us.

One of the ways this holy season stirs our longing for Christ’s coming, as our Saviour and Judge, is through attentiveness to the prophecies of Isaiah. For this reason, our daily lectionary appointed for Morning and Evening prayer goes through the entirety of the Book of Isaiah. On Sundays in Advent, at Trinity we sing verses from the ancient “O Antiphons,” which were probably first arranged by Benedictine monks in the sixth century, and were in regular use in Latin Christendom by the eighth. Many will be familiar with the beloved Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which is based on the O Antiphons. The ancient hymn meditates on each of Isaiah’s seven prophetic names for Christ, invoking his coming to us: O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Rod of Jesse, O Key of David, O Morning Star, O Desire of Nations, O Emmanuel. The constant refrain is that Christ would come, and this we pray rejoicing in sure knowledge that God shall come to his people, Israel. For Christ is indeed Emmanuel, God with us.

But what does it mean for us to watch and pray for Christ’s coming? Christians of course believe that Christ has already come: the first disciples recognized this when they encountered Jesus, and declared, “We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, the Christ) . . . We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45). But who, indeed, is this Jesus? It is the question of the excited crowd when Jesus enters into Jerusalem in great humility, and it is the question that must be on our own hearts and minds, lest we fail to recognize his coming to us, lest we miss the day of his divine visitation. For “he came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Precisely because we have confidence in the Lord who has already appeared in the flesh, before the arrival of Christmas we prepare ourselves, so that we may truly be ready to receive his grace in the humble manger of our souls.

We believe also that Christ will come again, as we recite in the Creed, “And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead,” or in the Te Deum Laudamus, “We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge.” The Christian looks to the coming judgement with boldness and hope, and not in the dread of despair, for the Jesus who shall return at the last day to be our Judge is the same Jesus who has revealed God’s everlasting love as the Saviour of the world. For we love him, because he first loved us. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:17-18).In Advent, we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming again in judgement, through penitential joy, and the renewal of our confession of sin and confession of praise.

Finally, our looking to Christ’s coming in the flesh and in judgement must include the expectation that Christ comes presently in our hearts, here and now. This waiting carries a sense of urgency, as St Paul says, “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand!” (Romans 13:11-12). We must know the time of salvation and judgment, and that time is now, without delay. Christ’s comings, both past and future, must become present reality to us. His comings, both in the flesh and in judgment, must pierce our hearts. Without the advent of Christ that shakes us awake to his love, we can in no way know the hope and joy and comfort that he brings.

There are plenty of opportunities at Trinity to practice the art of waiting, to kindle the flame of desire, to enter the joyful expectation of the Lord who has come, who shall come, and who comes to us even now. Our parish study in Advent takes up John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, on Wednesday nights at 6:15. There are Morning and Evening offices during the week, in which we hear the Word of God proclaimed, and like Mary ponder it in our hearts. There are opportunities for fellowship and sharing hospitality, in the Ladies’ Bible Study social (Dec. 11th), the Men’s Breakfast (Dec. 16th), and our “Christmas Cheer and Conviviality” Open House (1-4 p.m., January 1st). There are opportunities to help and support our neighbours in need, to love and serve them as we would Christ himself. Enclosed, you will find Trinity’s schedule of services for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.In the heart of this winter’s darkness, may each of us turn to worship Jesus Christ, as the world’s light and salvation. In him may we find the one for whom we have longed, the one for whom we have waited with patient expectation and hope.

As we make a new beginning together at the start of another Christian year, I want to thank you, the parishioners and friends of Trinity, for the many ways that you've blessed me this past year. For you have indeed ministered to me, as l have encountered Christ in you. I ask your forgiveness for all the ways that I have failed you this past year. Let us encourage, pray for, and build up one another in love.

I commend to your reading the financial update from our Treasurer, Evelyn Lewis. Enclosed you will find an envelope for your Christmas offering. I ask you to consider your giving, and how you can support Trinity’s ministry and mission. If anyone has questions or comments about anything in this letter, I invite you to be in touch with me.

In the Love of Christ,

Under his Mercy,

Fr Benjamin+

On the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary