Tag Archives: Advent

Observing Advent can help set the tone for a wholesome Christmas – 11/29/14

I’ve blogged about Advent in Anchorage for many years. Many pastors have shared their reflections about Advent on my blog, for which I am truly grateful. Last year’s theme was “Does celebrating Advent really make a difference?”

For example, recently retired Pastor Martin Dasler of Amazing Grace Lutheran Church offered, “If you long for a better world, a better government, a better self, Advent speaks to you. Advent is filled with redemptive desires and hopes. In a world filled with too much disillusionment and disappointment, Advent speaks to the profound desires of young idealists as well as to the lost hopes of crusty cynics.”

Rick Benjamin, former pastor of Abbott Loop Community Church and self-confessed “non-Adventer,” shared that “I really appreciate the logic and sequence of Advent: hope, love, joy and peace. Hope came from the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Love was the motivation for God sending his son. Joy happened at the birth event of Jesus. Peace is the result of his coming. I suppose this logic and sequence fits my linear way of thinking.”

Advent can be a time of great joy, infusing the church year with much goodness. With many religions it also signals the start of the church year. Advent, for centuries, has been observed as a time of watchful waiting, as Christians re-imagine the period of time prefiguring the birth of Jesus. In some traditions it was, and still is, accompanied by a period of fasting. Many traditions surround the observance of Advent with wreaths and candles of significance. Church historians generally date Advent’s observance to around the fourth century. More than half of Christian religions in America today celebrate Advent, with more joining every year. Advent seems to provide a helpful balance against the American penchant for observing Christmas as a commercial giving holiday that is generally directed more toward each other than toward humanity in general.

In Advent-observing churches, it is progressively celebrated for the four Sundays preceding Christmas with a theme, an Advent wreath and a candle of significance for that theme. On Christmas Eve, an additional candle, the Christ Candle, is lit celebrating Christ’s centrality to Advent. Advent tradition precludes carol singing until the Christmas Eve service. Instead, Christian hymns of watchful waiting are used. A good example of this is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Advent can be a wonderful time for contemplation, hope and blessing, as worshipers consider the true meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ for the world. Church attendance is not enough to reap the benefits of Advent. Many find that personal preparation, prayer and fasting help keep the mind clear and focused on the true meaning of Advent. Some Christians object to the observance of Advent because it is not mentioned in Scripture. Neither is the observance of Christmas, Lent or Easter, but that does not keep people from observing some or all of these Christian occasions. The venerable “altar call” so prevalent in some religions is not mentioned in Scripture either, but it is practiced every Sunday in many churches.

I’m captivated by a fascinating antidote to the crass consumerism of Christmas. Emerging in the past eight years, it is called the Advent Conspiracy. Created by five pastors, it imagines a better way of celebrating Christmas in communities. Embracing four tenets — worship fully, spend less, give more and love all — this marvelous idea helps reposition Christmas in extremely positive ways. The Advent Conspiracy is not a funnel for money. Rather, organizers direct individuals to work through their churches, using various suggested resources to support efforts to combat significant water and justice issues during the Christmas season.

Advent Conspiracy’s  well-designed website offers a few startling statistics.

29.8 million = Estimated people held in slavery today

$601 billion = Total U.S. holiday retail sales

$25 = the amount to needed provide a family of five access to safe water for a year

Many other ways exist to break the Christmas cycle of anxiety, spending, debt and hurt feelings, especially among the children. Personally, I admire Baxter Road Bible Church’s program of “It’s not your birthday, it’s Jesus’” for overall simplicity and focus.

Some families have adopted the practice of giving only gifts to family members and friends they have made themselves. The process is extremely enriching for the giver, especially as it simulates, to a degree, the gift that God gave us through his son Jesus. This is a practical way to model character-building behavior for your children.

As mentioned last week, most of our community nonprofit social service agencies desperately need funds at this time of year to continue their work. Don’t forget their needs as you plan your spending for this Christmas season. After reading that column, a friend shared that he and his wife were considering doing so this year, instead of pouring it into children and grandchildren.

Many churches will observe Advent starting this coming Sunday. A Google search turned up many congregations, and others will announce their services in Alaska Dispatch News’ “Matters of Faith” section in Saturday’s paper, usually just below this column. Most Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Moravian, Congregational and Orthodox churches offer Advent services. I recommend attending an Advent service if you’ve never done so before.  Please share your personal and observational thoughts about Advent services and their impact on you.

Chris Thompson is a religion scholar who visits local churches and writes about his experiences and matters of faith.  You can find his blog at churchvisits.com.

4th Advent 2013 – Anchorage Presbyterian Fellowship – Disappointing Visit

Earlier in 2013, I experienced an encouraging visit to Anchorage Presbyterian Fellowship, a breakaway group from one of Anchorages major churches, posting that visit HERE. (Hyperlink currently unavailable) I revisited APF on 4th Advent 2013, December 22, as I always emphasize visiting Advent observing churches during December.

Still meeting at UAA, APF had moved to a larger recital hall, but the group appeared to be about the same size. This time no one greeted me, so I picked up a bulletin, and walked inside. To get to my seat I walked across the front of the hall, in full sight of everyone present, taking a seat on the right side. I joined in and experienced AFP’s worship service. All five Advent candles were already lit. Surprisingly, nothing was said about any of them or the significance of 4th Advent. For a former Advent –observing group, it was a bit of a shock to discover they’d dropped the Advent emphasis. They also appeared to have dropped use of the lectionary, the chronicle of Biblical texts and observations used throughout the church year.

The preacher that day was Rev Dave Bacher, one of ChangePoint’s ministerial staff. He delivered a fine sermon on the Parable of the Sower as described in Mark 4:1-20, titled “Four Types of People”. Although it was an excellent sermon, it did not tie to Advent in any way. Dave has been one of a number of visiting pastors APF has been using as interim preachers during their pastoral search. They were fortunate in assembling a number of good ones from various pastoral backgrounds and religions which appear to have served them well.

However, emanating from a major Anchorage church, APF members appears to have brought some of the same problems with them I formerly observed and blogged about, especially unfriendliness to guests. Their old church never demonstrated warmth or hospitality to me during any of my many previous visits. Churches that are warm and welcoming to guests generally have a track record of fast growth. This may be why it appeared the same number of worshipers were present during my 2nd visit to APF.

I hope their new pastor focuses on what makes a church outstanding and help APF members understand the value of extending oneself personally to guests as a church growth strategy.

3rd Advent 2013 – Christ Our Savior Lutheran

It’s always a joy for me to visit Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church on Old Seward just north of DeArmoun. I consider it a premier neighborhood church with a difference. COSLC’s liturgical order helps guests make sense of the worship service, as opposed to those many Anchorage churches who believe that’s “old style”, tossing service order out of the window. This leaves many guests wondering exactly what is happening. Linked to a guest-unfriendly service, guests quickly decide to not revisit those churches.

Pastor Dan Bollerud is an innovative servant who has unusual services, shaking them up, helping you understand the true purpose of specific church services. This service was not an exception.

COSLC is a warm friendly church that makes all guests feel welcome and part of the church family. One feels valued in this congregation. The service last Sunday was based on Isaiah 55:1-11 which recounts Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity.[img_assist|nid=163922|title=3rd Advent Candle Lighting|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=314]

3rd Advent Sunday’s theme was Joy. This service dwelt on the joy and restoration theme, in all aspects. The lighting of the 3rd Advent candle of Joy came early in the service with the congregation responsively saying
“Whatever we face in life, God will make joy possible. When we light the candle of Joy, we celebrate the One who has come, is coming, and will come again
.”
Two young acolytes lit the candle of Joy as Pastor Dan led the readings.[img_assist|nid=163923|title=Pastor Dan Bollerud Preaching|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=467]

During the service a number of Advent hymns were sung by the smaller-than-usual congregation, no doubt daunted by the heavy snowfall we received last Saturday. Pastor Bollerud’s theme dwelt heavily on the key texts cited in Isaiah 55.

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come buy and eat!
Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Bollerud then extended God’s invitation to the communion table in an unusual exercise of devotion to God’s liberating gift. The communion tables were supplied with bread, wine, sparkling cider, and sweet breads. We were invited to partake of the Lord’s Supper in the same manner Jesus asked us to in remembrance of him. The congregation was asked to serve each other in “body and bread” language, e.g “The body of Christ, broken for you”, “The blood of Christ, shed for your sins”. In all of my years of church-going, this was certainly one of the most memorable communions I’ve had. We lose so much in our services by doing the same thing, in the same way, for years. Our beliefs need to be infused with new experiences from time to time. It truly awakens us to a different perspective on our beliefs.

I highly recommend Christ Our Savior Lutheran for its constantly challenging perspective of examining our beliefs, the warm and engaging members, and Pastor Dan Bollerud who walks with them as friend, and leader.

Advent Reflection – Pastor Steven Vicaro

This Advent I’ve asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors, representing a variety of faith traditions, to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year’s theme: “Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?”

The next pastor to be featured is Stephen Vicaro, Pastor of the Hillside-O’Malley SDA Church. Stephen comes from a non-Advent celebrating tradition.[img_assist|nid=163916|title=Pastor Stephen Vicaro, Hillside O’Malley SDA Church|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=403]

Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?

I would have to say a resounding “Yes!” There are at least three great events in Christian history that should be celebrated whole-heartedly by the church: 1) Christ’s First Advent, 2) The Crucifixion, and 3) Christ’s Second Advent (still in the future).

All three of these events represent the giving nature of God. With the first Advent God gave His own Son to the human race, to be One of us, or as the Bible puts it, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). With the Crucifixion, Christ gave Himself as the ultimate Sacrifice on our behalf. He made atonement (or at-one-ment) for our sins, that He might save us from our sins. With the Second Advent, God will give us eternal life in its completed form. Speaking of the redeemed, Revelation 21:3 declares, “God Himself will be with them and be their God.” All of these greatest of events in human history have to do with God giving to each of us the opportunity to be reunited with the Creator God of the universe. That’s a reason to celebrate!

To be clear, there is nothing special about the particular time of year, nor the date December 25. Many Christians know that Jesus was not born in the Winter, but in the Fall. Though there is merit in all of Christendom celebrating in unison the birth of our Lord, it is important to remember that Jesus, the Gift, is the focal point, not the date or the time of year.

Our secular culture celebrates Christmas, not as a recognition of God’s Gift, but of materialism and the “spirit of Christmas.” Our culture has put a magical mystique to December 25 that has more to do with reindeer and elves than with the baby Jesus. I think that this is why God distinctly excluded the exact date from the Scriptures. He didn’t want us to view the birthday as more important than the One born on the day.

For example, in John 11, when Jesus approached Bethany on His way to resurrecting Lazarus, we find this dialogue:

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…”

Martha had misunderstood the Scriptures teaching about the resurrection. She wrongly understood that the resurrection would happen on a certain day, and that was wherein her brother’s hope lie. Jesus had to explain to her that it wasn’t the “day” that would bring about Lazarus’ restoration of life, but it was Jesus, Himself, that would resurrect him.

In the same way, as we commemorate the First Advent, let us remember that it is Christ, Himself, that is to be celebrated.

Advent Reflection – Pastor Rick Benjamin

This Advent I’ve asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors, representing a variety of faith traditions, to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year’s theme: “Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?”

The next pastor to be featured is Rick Benjamin, former Sr. Pastor of Abbott Loop Community Church. He is now is the Director of Organizational and Spiritual Wellness at Hope Community Resources.

An Advent Reflection from a “Non-Adventer”

Our church and my heritage are in the Protestant/evangelical/Pentecostal tradition of the Christian faith. We did not follow the liturgical calendar; we didn’t even have services on Good Friday. (We were somewhat religious about how non-religious we were!) So we did not follow the tradition of Advent. I knew the word “advent” meant “coming,” but that was usually applied to the Second Coming of Jesus. Of course we had our own church and family traditions for celebrating Christmas.

Along the way God has blessed me with many new friends and colleagues in the broader body of Christ. Through these relationships I became aware and intrigued by the liturgical calendar and I learned about Advent. A year ago I was guest speaking for a new church that followed Advent. To do those messages I learned about the four Sundays of Advent, the candles and the colors.

I really appreciate the logic and sequence of Advent: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Hope came from the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Love was the motivation for God sending his Son. Joy happened at the birth event of Jesus. Peace is the result of his coming. I suppose this logic and sequence fits my linear way of thinking.

I also appreciate the anticipation through the month, leading up to Christmas. I learned that Advent can even be a “mini-Lent,” a time of fasting and self-denial. One Advent expression I still don’t understand is “preparing ourselves for the coming of the Christ child.” He already came; I don’t need to prepare for his coming, but I do celebrate that he came. Maybe what is really meant is “preparing ourselves for that celebration?”

I have benefited from Advent, even though my understanding and observance are admittedly incomplete. And to all the other “non-Adventers” like me out there, I suggest you give Advent a try. But since it includes all four Sundays in December, you may have to wait till next year.

Advent Reflection – Rector Michael Burke

This Advent I’ve asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors, representing a variety of faith traditions, to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year’s theme: “Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?”

Our next Advent Reflection was submitted by Rector Michael Michael Burke of St. Mary’s Episcopal at Tudor and Lake Otis.[img_assist|nid=163107|title=Rector Michael Burke|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=300|height=412]

Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?
I’ve been sitting here reading words written long ago… some 500 years after the Babylonian Captivity, back about 2000 years… Words tumbling and rumbling on down to today, the words of the prophet Isaiah in the mouth of John the Baptizer:

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
Make his paths straight,
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God…

I’m thinking that this time in my life the barriers are not external, they are internal… Those things which keep me from God are not physical mountains or valleys or deserts, or rough ways outside of myself, but metaphorical and very real mountains and valleys inside myself.

Don Waring, a preacher from Ohio, writes that the “mountains, valleys, and rough places [John] referred to were not that of any outward landscape, but rather the untamed geography of the inner life. John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That’s a fancy way of talking about a change of character, not a change of scenery.”

So for me, Advent is a time of “turning inward” to examine my own heart, and “turning outward” to others in service and compassion. If that sounds like “repentance,” that’s what it is…

In Hebrew: “repentance” is to STOP! And to “Turn Around” a change in direction, a new “facing forward” fundamentally different from what has come before.

What is it in my life that functions as a barrier to God? In what direction do I need to head to get around or over these things, and to “clear the way” for a renewed and lifegiving relationship with the Lord? These days at hand are days to plow out the old ruts and furrows which have held me for too long…

At first small changes in my life don’t feel any different; but they are in a new direction, and each footstep takes me closer to where God calls me to be. And if the mountain of habit, or comfortable patterns of life, or the valleys of discouragement seem too deep, the furrows too many and daily life too rough… If the life you and I live, and the lives of those around us seem to have taken too many crooked twists and turns for there to ever be a way home again… hear this:

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God…

God makes a way for our “turning.” God Does. God Is. Yes, this is repentance, when, in the words of St Augustine: “the dark night of doubt becomes the light of peace.”

In the words of Lutheran theologian Martin Marty, repentance is “not a sour dour mournful act,” but a joyous rebirth and celebration of our renewed commitment to follow Jesus in all we do.

Preparing for Advent then, is not just about celebrating the events of the past, the blessed birth of the infant Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem, nor entirely about our hopeful expectations of Christ’s second coming; ultimately, it is also about the present moment: a time of turning anew, and of living into the very present reality of God With Us,

Right Here…

Right Now…

Happy New Church Year.

Advent Reflection – Pastor Peter Perry

This Advent I’ve asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors representing a variety of faith traditions to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year’s theme: “Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?”

Our next Advent Reflection was submitted by Pastor Peter Perry, Pastor of St. John UMC on O’Malley.[img_assist|nid=163270|title=Pastor Peter Perry, St. John UMC|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=250|height=438]

Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?

One of my favorite irreverent FaceBook sites, Unvirtuous Abbey, recently published an explanation of the word “Advent.” The writer suggests that the word is a compound of Ad (a commercial) and Vent (to complain) resulting in Advent, which is a time when Christians complain about the commercialization of Christmas.

There would seem to be great truth in this definition, as year after year the faithful church folk I know attempt to follow a holy Advent in the face of the onslaught of holiday happenings, seasonal sales, and Merry Xmas excitement. The whininess of the Advent purists does sometimes become tiresome. The season of Advent, a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ, was first observed in the fifth century, and predates such contemporary expressions of the season as Black Friday, Christmas cards, and even Christmas trees… but not Santa Claus whose legendary status grew from stories about Saint Nicholas of Myra, a kindly man with a habit of giving secret gifts, who lived in the FOURTH century. So Santa is even older than Advent, but what’s a hundred years or so between friends?

Nevertheless, it does seem to me that Advent has a much-needed place in our hectic rush to gift-giving indebtedness, our glad embrace of gluttony, and our burn-the-candle-at-both-ends schedules of parties and travel and shopping. Its place is one of mitigation. Advent is like the parachute that slows the otherwise fatal leap of the skydiver from the plane and helps us hit the ground, if not softly, at least safely. Let’s face facts: the culture of Christmas that we know is pervasive and powerful. Almost all of us give in to it to some degree or another. I’m glad that there are four Sundays of Advent that serve as speed bumps on the holiday highway, forcing my spirit to slow down just enough to remember the real reason we celebrate each year with so much joyful abandon. Advent, with its recurring call to prepare one’s heart for the coming of God into our world… Advent, with its four-fold doxology of candles lit for hope, joy, peace, and love… Advent, with its Biblical stories of prophets and peasants and paupers who discover God growing in their bellies, and in their barns, and along their back roads… is an annually recurring divine corrective to the excess of affluence and indifference that so tempt me at this time of year. Yes, Advent makes a difference to me… thanks be to God!

2nd Advent 2013 – First United Methodist

A Little Background For This Visit
Last year my 2nd Advent Visit was to First United Methodist Church in Downtown Anchorage. My post of that visit is HERE. (Visit hyperlink unavailable at this time) Tragically, Pastor Myers was involved in a head-on collision on the Seward Highway the next day. 11 people ended up in the hospital.

I was pleased to see him preaching this morning, although his recovery from this accident has been painfully slow.

Unusual Service Start – Candle Lighting
I was greeted by Reverend Myers and a congregation member as I entered this morning for the 11 a.m. service. Pastor Myers gave a warm Christian greeting at the service start, inviting first-time visitors to raise their hands to receive a freshly-baked loaf of bread as a token of their visit to First UMC. Another Anchorage Church Visits first was then experienced as Myers, and a choir member, led the congregation in the Gathering Song, “Prepare the Way of the Lord”, but done in the style of rounds. I loved it. Nice choice!

A 2nd Advent responsive reading preceded the lighting of last week’s Hope candle, and today’s Peace candle. Churches that do not punctuate their services with an Advent candle lose an opportunity for a powerful lesson, on these Advent Sundays, to be shown.

Reflective Sermon
Myers sermon titled “What Street Do You Live On?” was filled with Biblical sharing based on the Gospel Lesson text Matthew 3:1-12 regarding John the Baptist, reflections on members, Mandela, and his own life. Mandela was quoted as saying he wasn’t perfect, not a saint, but if you could count sinning but growing toward God, maybe. Myers exhorted his congregants to “lean into God’s dream” by repentance, noting that repentance was also John the Baptist’s ministry theme. In the end “Love triumphs!” He finished by urging members to invite people into our neighborhood, preaching hope and joy instead of judgment, certainly a theme of Mandela’s later life. Myers noted that Advent is time to prepare for the new life. I considered this time a wonderful time of bringing his congregation together, functioning as a true pastor. In my opinion, First UMC is a gem of a church in Downtown Anchorage. I’m surprised many more do not take advantage of its closeness and adherence to preaching the gospel.

Musical Glue
I love visiting this church because my visits are always enhanced by the musical talents of Janet Carr-Campbell. A true artist, both on piano and organ, she excels in bringing a sense of ministry to this church. Services at First UMC are seamlessly tied together through Janet’s efforts. This morning the choir director was sick, and she also directed from the piano. I cannot conceive of this church’s services being as effective without her artistry. There is no grandstanding or showboating here as I see in other local churches. I thoroughly enjoy my visits here.

Bread for Me
A nice lady came up to me after the service and offered me a loaf of bread, after Pastor Myers extended the loaf invitation to 1st time visitors and guests. I was touched by this gesture, a rare one among Anchorage churches. There is no hesitation on my part to recommend this fine church for a visit. You’ll not be sorry you’ve done so.

Advent Reflection – Pastor Martin Dasler

This Advent I’ve asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors representing a variety of faith traditions to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year’s theme: “Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?”

Our next Advent Reflection was submitted by Pastor Martin Dasler, Assistant Pastor of Amazing Grace Lutheran on the hillside.

Does Celebrating Advent really make a difference?

In nearly 40 years of ministry I have watched people’s love of Advent continue to grow. When I began as a pastor in the early ‘70’s, Advent was a more austere time. Like Lent, the color purple emphasized a time of repentance.

Today many churches have changed to blue, the color of Mary and hope. This season, synchronized with a growing darkness in the North, stirs up our longing for a better world. One can hear that longing in the scriptural libretto of Handel’s Messiah, the music of Mozart or the songs of John Denver. All long for a better world or a love that seems unattainable.

“In the days to come…they will beat their swords into plowshares” speaks the 8th century BCE prophet Isaiah. If you long for a better world, a better government, a better self, Advent speaks to you. Advent is filled with redemptive desires and hopes. In a world filled with too much disillusionment and disappointment, Advent speaks to the profound desires of young idealists as well as to the lost hopes of crusty cynics.

There is a delicious richness in the Symbols of Advent. Four candled wreaths or logs, and countdown calendars encourage participatory preparation. The Advent stage fills with the magnificent poetry of Isaiah, Amos, Micah, John the Baptizer; then resounds with the hopeful or joyful songs of Zachariah, Mary and Elizabeth. It’s a time for Protestants to join Catholics to remember and admire Mary, and to sing with her songs of hope and promise.

First Advent Visit – Our Lady of Guadalupe

I enjoy visiting different Anchorage churches during Advent to experience individually different flavors of Advent Celebration. I chose Our Lady of Guadalupe for my visit last Sunday to experience their celebration at the 5:30 Mass. Sunday is a busy day with Masses at 9, 11:30, and 5:30. The church is large and the 5:30 mass attendees almost filled the church.

The service lasted about an hour and was a beautiful mix of music, liturgy, and Mass celebration. Fr. Vince Blanco is the parish priest. Surprisingly he lit the first candle in the Advent wreath almost immediately as the service started. Many churches do this differently at various times of the service. I almost missed it as it came so quickly. The first candle is symbolic of Hope.

There was beautiful music by their choir and instrumentalists. Fr. Vince’s sermon was well-delivered with him standing down in front of the congregation. It was as if he was having a conversation with his family. His sermon was an excellent reflection on Advent and the importance of observing it. He closed his sermon an admonition, “May God be a priority in your life.”

Before the Mass was celebrated a beautiful version of The Lord’s Prayer was sung by the congregation, instead of being recited. Many congregants held hands during this singing, families, et al.

As I left, I noticed many boxes of donations in the narthex that were designated for Philippine relief.

I enjoyed this Advent service very much, even though I’m not of the Catholic persuasion. It was a warm and friendly service.