Over the past 12-years of authoring this blog, I’ve considered Advent to be a great privilege to observe, especially from a multi-religion point of view.
Advent for the Orthodox community began on November 15 with the Feast of the Nativity. Pascha and Advent are two periods of the year that Orthodox place special emphasis upon. Locally we are fortunate to have three branches of the Orthodox faith well represented by churches and clergy: Greek Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox (Antiochian), and Orthodox of America (formerly Russian Orthodox in Alaska). You will find many of their services chronicled in the Tag Cloud on the right-hand side of the desktop version of this blog. Just click on ADVENT.
Advent for Western Christianity begins today. One of the traditions I enjoy about its observance is the lighting of a new Advent candle each week, often accompanied by a homily pertaining to that named candle. Todays theme is Hope.
It is an evergreenwreath with four candles, sometimes with a fifth, white candle in the center. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time and prayers. An additional candle is lit on each subsequent Sunday until, by the last Sunday of Advent, all four candles are lit. Some Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The custom originated in family settings but has also become widespread in public worship.” Source – Wikipedia
I wish each of my readers a meaningful Advent season and pray that your journey toward Christmas will be filled with insight and joy. Covid has made this Advent journey especially difficult, but I sincerely Hope it draws each of you closer to God. Check back frequently as I’ll be updating the blog with Advent news and readings.
As I commence updating my Church Visits blog, it feels appropriate to offer a few of my thoughts of what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. I’m guided by biblical admonition as in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
My Health So far, I’ve not been touched by Covid-19 infection. I attribute much of this to a loving God and community neighbors who willingly social distance and wear masks.
Our Faith Community A fair number of local congregations have been very wise in limiting or curtailing in-person services. This has helped avoid the spread of Covid-19 in many ways, and provides a strong example of how people of faith can show respect for each other and non-believers. Matthew 22:36-40 ESV states: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
New Worship Insights Most congregations are meeting remotely and finding technology can knit members closer to each other, while seamlessly expanding their outreach. Pastors report their remote worship services are drawing many people from beyond their member base, even overseas. Former members can participate in services, while those who, by reason of work, military service, or travel, can also attend remotely. I believe this can be the bow wave of future mission for the church.
My Worship Experience I’m very thankful to have had several great new worship experiences during the pandemic. One was a house church which meets via Zoom, now that in-person meetings are too risky. 10-15 individuals/families met in the house church I worshipped with. They study a chapter of the Bible each week and discuss insights about their study. Sadly, they lost track of me and I was forgotten. However, I’m gratified to have been meeting for months with a noted scientist/ordained minister who uses the following format. He starts with 15 minutes of answering participant questions about science or faith issues. Next, he delivers 30 minutes of insights about a topic of significance. Currently he is exploring God and suffering, a fascinating topic. He then takes 30-45 minutes of questions again, after which he breaks the online audience into groups of 5-10 individuals to discuss a study question based on the teaching. Usually, we all get back together again as a group for 15 minutes to share insights about our study. This person-to-person aspect is missing from most services. I’ll be happy to share this study site if you’re interested. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Fair and Safe Election Clearly, I give thanks for our recent election that demonstrated the strength and resiliency of our electoral system. Many areas of the world are not as fortunate. Earlier this year, I visited several African countries where voters routinely have their votes stolen during rigged elections. As a student of history, it was gratifying to see democracy at work once again, honoring the will of the people.
Care for the Homeless and Hungry Finally, I’m happy to be part of a community that looks after the less fortunate among us. The various food banks, shelter services, and church-based food banks and assistance programs show that heart-felt caring and sharing is still alive here. It is easy to criticize the least among us, but many people in our locality are one paycheck or less from disaster. This could be your lot too under different circumstances. “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” — James 1:27, The Message
Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. Please feel free to add your comments to this dialog. This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of what I am thankful for this day, but is good to offer thanks. Finally, I thank each reader of this blog for taking the time to add to the conversation.