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Meditation at Advent Lessons and Carols December 11, 2016 - The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
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THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT 
Meditation at Advent Lessons & Carols  5 p.m.
 
Genesis 3:8-15, 20-22; Isaiah 52:7-10; Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; Isaiah 61:1-4;
Jeremiah 23:5-6; Romans 13:8-14; Luke 1:39-46
The Carol: “Now the heavens start to whisper”
Other carols, canticles, and anthems
 
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
The Rev. Canon Janet Campbell
December 11, 2016
 
 
As children
in an un-churched family
my sister and brothers and I
knew nothing of Advent
or Advent calendars
or the great wheel of time
          we call the Advent wreath,
                    marking Advent Sundays’ passage.
 
We knew nothing of Sundays.
 
But we did know
how many days there were
until Christmas,
because there it was every morning
printed in bright red ink
on the front page of the Schenectady Gazette.
 
Shopping Days Left Until Christmas:
 
24 . . . . . . 23 . . . . . . 22 . . . . . . 21 . . . . . .
 

How slowly those days crawled by.
 
How impatiently we yearned
for Christmas to bring
the longed-for fulfillment
of that year’s dreams:
 
a doll that could walk,
an electric train,
a red wagon,
riding boots.
 
20 . . . . . 19 . . . . 18 . . .17. .
 
As a young adult,
(still unchurched)
my experience of December days
changed:
 
suddenly there were not enough of them . . .
 
not enough time
to get everything done
that was supposed to be done    
to create that year’s “perfect” Christmas:
cleaning, decorating, cooking,
and, oh yes, shopping,
and wrapping and mailing
          that for which I had shopped . . .
          (because we didn’t have the internet)

But it was never perfect,
there was always a vague longing unfulfilled,
an un-named need never met,
a yearning that lasted
          far beyond the day.
 
The whole enterprise
hollow, meaningless,
not to mention exhausting.
 
16 . . 15 . . 14 . . 13 . .
 
13:
the number of days
left until Christmas this year.
 
Will they be shopping days?
Probably.
And days for cooking and cleaning,
and days for parties
just like before.
 
But what else might they also be?
 
 

In my 32nd year,
late in November,
I stumbled into church
and into Advent.
 
Advent . . .
 
not a frenzy of days
culminating in that one day, Christmas,
 
but a season
unto itself.
 
Season of silence and stillness,
season of listening,
season of signs and portents,
          hints and guesses,
of that which is to come . . .
and even now,
in the mystery of God’s unfolding of time,
that which is already here among us.
 
Incarnation.
 
[Singing “Now the heavens start to whisper” Stanza 1]
 
Now the heavens start to whisper, as the veil is growing thin.
Earth from slumber wakes to listen to the stirring, faint within:
Seed of promise, deeply planted, child to spring from Jesse’s stem!
Like the soil beneath the frost-line, hearts grow soft to welcome him.*
           

The heavens are whispering
God’s promise
          into the world . . .
 
the longed-for fulfillment
          of humanity’s dreaming . . .  
 
in a mere whisper of a child.
 
Dreams of justice
          and peace,
dreams of healing
          and hope,
dreams of love
          and mercy. . .
long foretold . . .
          even now coming to pass.
 
But what of those dreams
in these anxious days
when other voices
(not whispers)
speak words that ought not
ever be spoken . . .
 
words of arrogance, prejudice, hate, racism . . .
 
words of which nightmares
are made.
 

A darkness falls over the land
that is not entirely
of winter’s making.
 
And in the darkness,
hidden actions are taken
whose consequences
have yet to be seen.
 
And we have come tonight
out of that darkness
          to hear again
          to sing again
          to claim and proclaim again
                   the light which has come into the world,
                   the light no darkness can overcome.
                  
 
[Singing “Now the heavens start to whisper” Stanza 2]
 
Heavy clouds that block the moonlight now begin to drift away.
Diamond brilliance through the darkness shines the hope of coming day.
Christ, the morning star of splendor, gleams within a world grown dim.
Heaven’s ember fans to fullness; hearts grow warm to welcome him.*
           
The heavens are whispering
God’s promise
          into the world . . .
 
In these 13 days that remain
of Advent’s silence and stillness,
may we listen again for
God’s whispered word
          of promise.
 
Incarnation.
 
God has been born into the world
          in Christ.
Now Christ must be borne (carried)
          into the world in us . . .
 
Our ears
open to the cries
of the world’s hurts and griefs and needs.
 
Our hearts
set over against
all that is not
of God’s love.
 
Our voices
(not whispers)
speaking of
God’s justice and peace.
 
Our actions
bold in the light of day
embodying what we speak.
Christ our morning star,
Christ the new creation’s dawn,
Christ the light who breaks the darkness,
dwells in the anxious and afraid,
the hungry and neglected,
the scorned and belittled . . .
 
and we must meet him there.
 
 
[Singing “Now the heavens start to whisper” Stanza 3]
 
Christ, eternal Sun of justice, Christ, the rose of wisdom’s seed,
Come to bless with fire and fragrance hours of yearning, hurt, and need.
In the lonely, in the stranger, in the outcart, hid from view:
Child who comes to grace the manger, teach our hearts to welcome you.*
 
* Text: Mary Louise Bringle © 2006 by GIA Publications, inc.
   Music: suo gan, Traditional Welsh melody, arr. Alfred V. Fedak, ©2011]