Advent at St. Julian's Begins this Sunday, Nov 29:
As we approach another Advent at St. Julian's, I want to share with you some of the opportunities we have scheduled to use Advent as a time for hope, encouragement and growth in our lives. As we state in our Rule of Life at St. Julian's, we are together committed to using the seasons of special devotion, both Advent and Lent, as times to deepen our spiritual lives, serve those most in need, and seek greater intimacy with God in Christ (to review our Rule of Life, click here).
First, we will, of course, be celebrating Advent each week at our fully online 10 AM service on Sundays. With the rise of COVID cases in our community, we have returned to one fully online Sunday service each week, again, at 10 AM on Zoom. As you know, a special part of our Advent services is the lighting of the Advent Wreath. As we light the wreath in worship, we invite you to do the same at home. Though we will not be able to create wreaths for our homes in church together as we do most years, here is a link for a helpful article on how to create your own at home. Also, here is a link for a set of prayers that I have created for use with your Advent Wreath at home. This can be adapted as a daily or a weekly practice for families or individuals.
Second, our Theologian-in-Residence, Dr. Tony Baker, will be providing an Advent Themed Adult Christian Education class exploring poetry and hymnody inspired by the season on Wednesday evenings, 6:30-7:30 PM, Dec 2, 9 and 16. All are welcome to join the class whether or not you have been attending our Wednesday evening class this fall. As this will be a self-contained 3-week series, it is a perfect time to join us. We will conclude the class each week with Compline. The class will meet on Zoom (link here, Meeting ID: 818 5681 3187).
Third, we are once again as a community reading together the Advent Daily Reflections provided by Living Compass, "Practicing Hope with All Your Heart, Soul, Strength, and Mind". This year we will not be distributing a booklet, but we are providing this link to sign-up to receive them free each day in your inbox. If you prefer to have the devotions in hand, you are also able to purchase the devotions as a book or e-book or download them as a PDF (information for all 3 versions is found here). You will also find at that link other Advent devotional resources including an online retreat/discussion group on their private Facebook page that begins Nov 27.
Fourth, Jonathan and I are committed to getting everyone in our community, who desires it, Holy Communion at your home leading up to Christmas. Home Communions can be scheduled for an individual person or family at your home (outdoors) or for as many as two families (maintaining a total of no more than 10 people) gathered together outdoors at one home for a joint service. Click on this Google Form to register, and we will follow up with a specific date and time.
Fifth, we are planing for our Christmas Pageant this year to be a video made up of images that we will collect online. All are invited to participate whatever your age and whatever the make up of your family. Essentially you will stage at your home, using whatever costumes and backgrounds you can create, scenes from the Christmas story and then take pics of them and submit them for the video. To participate and for much more information on what pics we are looking for, click here. Photos are due by Dec 13 to give time to create the final video. We feel like participation could be a fun way in Advent to prepare expectantly to hear the story of Jesus' birth afresh at Christmas.
Sixth, we have scheduled our Advent Lessons and Carols service for the 4th Sunday in Advent, Dec 20 (fully online at 10 AM). The service includes 9 scripture readings that foretell our Dear Savior's birth from the Old and New Testaments, accompanied by special seasonal carols provided by our Music Team and congregational hymns. The service will also include a short homily and is a powerful way to prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas which follows just a few days later. The service highlights the beauty of the music provided by Nick and our gifted singers and musicians at St. Julian's.
Seventh, we are, once again, participating in Charlotte's 7th Annual Toy Drive benefiting Texas Baptist Children's Home. Since we cannot have collection boxes this year, Charlotte has created a wish list on Amazon (click here). Once you select an item and pay for it, you will need to choose to ship it to Erin Foster's Gift Registry Address (Charlotte's Toy Drive, c/o Erin Foster, 116 Ruffino Ln, Georgetown, TX, 78628). They will then deliver all the gifts at once. Deadline for arrival of gifts is Dec 10. TBCH has said this is their single largest source of Christmas gifts for the children they serve. So, let's not let the pandemic keep us from a great response. For questions, email Brian.
Advent is, indeed, a season characterized by hopeful expectation. We look expectantly to the celebration of Jesus birth into our lives and world. But this is not just an occasion of looking back to something that happened in the past...but looking forward...looking with the eyes of our hearts to perceive the ways that God's love is being birthed around us at all times and in all places. These moments of God's love bursting forth into our present experience are hope filled promises that love will not be overcome by whatever challenges beset us. This hope fuels our living, and we must share it with all whose paths cross our own.
If I can answer any questions about Advent at St. Julian's or anything in our shared life, please don't hesitate to reach out, as always. I hope this reaches you and yours as well as possible.