Advent 3, Year B and the Christmas Play

Title:Advent 3, Year B and the Christmas Play

 Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, Advent 3 (full size gallery)

Today was Advent 3 but for St. Peter’s better known as the Christmas Play. This play was different than in the past. It was exclusively performed by children but this time with speaking lines rather than involving the adults with the speaking parts. The play was inserted in the service rather than the service inserted into the play. This year Advent 4 and Christmas Eve are the same day so Advent seems shorter. Thus, the  decision to make it an Advent 3 Sunday as much as the play.

The play was written by Catherine around the Gospel reading for this Sunday starting with John the Baptist. It continued with a mixture of the traditions from Luke and Matthew. We had 58 people in the service including 11 children in the play.

Becky Fisher as the director deserves credit for rehearsing the children over several weeks  with their lines, organizing the costumes and getting the PA system. The props had to be purchased and blocking had to be done.  

Here are the Videos of the play

The play took the time for the sermon. Catherine did provide a homily on setting the Table since it was bare for the use of the play.  That is also included on the video page.

In addition to the play, we celebrated Cookie and Johnny’s 33rd anniversary of their marriage.

The bulletin is here and the readings here.

One of the candles surrounding the Christ Candle this week in the Advent wreath is rose colored, for Gaudete Sunday or Joy Sunday, the the third week in Advent. The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"). This is break from some of the pentitential readings earlier in Advent. How will you express joy this week? Consider the good things that have been given to you.

The readings for Gaudete Sunday deal with rejoicing in the Lord — Christian joy — as well as the mission of John the Baptist and his connection with Advent. Theologian Henri Nouwen described the difference between joy and happiness. While happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is "the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing — sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away." Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness.

Besides the emphasis in joy, this is also "Stir up Sunday!" The collect has the words, " Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins". Let’s change the "our sins" to "missing the mark." How can we hit the mark ? One way is to advantage of our opportunities.

Let’s change the "our sins" to "missing the mark." Look at the positive. How do we hit the mark? John’s Gospel account this week reminds us of the importance of putting Christ’s kingdom as the first priority in our lives. We are called to point to the light of Christ with our lives, not shine the light on ourselves. By sharing of our resources and giving of ourselves we "testify to the light." Mary’s Magnificat found in the Canticle speaks of the joy of salvation, the reversal of this world’s values, God’s option for the poor and lowly and the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. It provides specific causes — as an advocate for the poor, outcast, the undernourished in life (food and otherwise) as well as those affected the sins of our time – racism and sexism. Much of this we see through our Village Harvest ministry. It gets to the challenge for all of us – "How will you light the world this Christmas and in 2018 ?"

Today’s readings sparkle with the light of God’s approaching deliverance. According to the prophet Isaiah, salvation glows like a torch flaring in darkness and like dawn breaking the night. In anticipation of this coming light, Paul exhorts believers to persist in holiness, confident that God alone will sanctify them. In today’s gospel, John the Baptist announces the coming of Jesus, the true light in the midst of all our darkness.

Isaiah speaks a message of hope to those returning from exile in Babylon. He describes an ultimate year of jubilee—a time of full blessing brought by divine favor. The blessing is accompanied by a day of vindication that will bring full restitution for injustice. Thus he looks back to the Mosaic law regarding the jubilee year and forward to the day of the Lord.

In verses 10-11, the prophet assumes the voice of Zion, the kingdom of God. Zion revels in the new life given it by God. This new life is described first as a joyful wedding celebration and then as a time of planting and new growth. Both images bespeak mystery and delight. In the same way, God will bring about a new life of justice and praise.

Today’s reading, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, comes from the earliest New Testament writing, written probably about AD 50–51. Paul has dealt with several questions relating to the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return (5:1). He closes his letter by reminding the Thessalonians that a strong and loving community life, not speculation and anxiety, is the proper environment for awaiting the Lord. God desires that their lives be characterized by joy, prayer and thanksgiving.

The Thessalonian Christians are to welcome the charismatic gifts, but with discernment. In speaking of spirit, soul and body, Paul does not intend to divide the human person into separate components. Rather, in Hebraic style, he describes to the human person in the threefold components of relation to God, of present vitality and of physical body. God both wills and works the sanctification of the total person.

From David Lose on 3rd Advent Year B, Gospel

"John the Baptist’s role in the Fourth Gospel is a little different than it is in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Starting with the fact that he’s not actually identified as John the Baptist. Yes, he baptizes. But while in the Synoptics he baptizes Jesus, he does not do so in this account. Instead, his primary role is to witness. As it says, in what can feel like a misplaced verse in the prologue – although I think it clarifies John and his role – John “came as a witness to the light, so that all might believe through him.” And, even here, in these opening verses, there is an immediate disclaimer: “He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.”

The people of Jesus’ time had a variety of expectations about the appearance of one or more figures who would bring the current age to an end. The most common hope centered on the coming of a political messiah who would be a member of the royal line of King David. Elijah was also expected as a herald. There was also a hope for the revival of prophecy by a prophet-like-Moses.

When questioned, John the Baptist rejects all of these identifications. He is only “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” (v. 23; Isaiah 40:3). Likewise, the baptism that he practices points away from himself. It is only a preparation for the One already present but as yet undisclosed.

"Why such concern? Perhaps it’s because of the ongoing importance of the community of those who continued to follow John the Baptist? Each Gospel writer seems to want to make clear that John was important, but not as important as Jesus, and so employs John to clarify his subordinate role.

"He was a leader, an influencer, and therefore a potential ally or threat, and so they come out to interrogate him, perhaps to challenge him, perhaps to woo him, or perhaps to discredit him. And none of this bothers him in the least, because he knows who he is. And he knows who he’s not. He’s not the light. He is the one pointing to the light, crying in the wilderness, serving first, foremost, and finally as a witness. John knows who he is, and that includes knowing who he’s not.

"John offers a striking example and may encourage ourselves and our folks to put our faith into action by pointing to and participating in something larger than themselves. And we are free to do this – to give ourselves away in service rather than try to establish ourselves via power and influence – precisely because our worth and value isn’t something that has to be earned or proved but rather has already been given to us as a gift from Jesus, the one to whom John points.

"What a Christmas gift, dear Partner, that we have the opportunity to give! Really, two gifts. First, the reminder that when God came to us in the flesh of Jesus, God was, among other things, saying that we were worth it. That we are worth noticing, caring for, and honoring. God didn’t urge us to climb up to where God is but instead came down to us, to where we are, both to honor us and to be with us. Second, that gift of divine accommodation, to borrow a phrase from John Calvin, sets us free from worrying about establishing our worth and value and sets us loose to care for others, to make sure they also know they are valued and loved and can work to fulfill their potential and make a difference in the world."

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