It’s time again for Ask the Bishop! In this segment Bishop Sean talks about the collaboration with Western New York, family Advent traditions, and a Christmas blessing.
O’Hare Airport, Chicago, Illinois, November 30. I needed cash and took the right hand turn towards the BMO Harris ATM. An older adult woman in a wheelchair with an attendant rested sideways to the ATM, wanting cash. She had repeated trouble reaching and hitting the right suggestions on the screen. Her assistant had his back turned, protecting her privacy. When I arrived she was retrieving her first card due to an inaccurate pin number. She had taken nearly three minutes to get to this point; impatience was showing around my edges.
She drew out a second credit card. She repeated the routine. I thought: why don’t I step up to the ATM, interrupt them, handle my business, and move on to my gate, which by the way didn’t board for over an hour? Her second card was rejected to her increasing despair. She hung her head in frustration, sadness, and anxiety. Over my shoulder a young couple rolled their eyes in unison, indicating they thought this old lady was an intolerable pain. They apparently didn’t need cash so desperately and moved on. Not me. I needed cash and this was the last ATM of my bank before the gate.
Frustration and impatience increased as she reached for a third card; painfully reached, her anxiety rising together with her confusion. Her escort and I both now began to coach her in hopes that this time the card would work. She lowered her requested amount from $40 to $20. The screen noted she had exceeded her available credit. She was crushed. The young man’s face empathetically frowned. I was frustrated. Then the young man said quietly, yet loud enough for all to hear, “Don’t worry! You don’t have to give me anything. Really. This is my job!” All she wanted to do was give thanks to this young man for helping her through the airport from car to gate. When the screen showed no funds her head drooped, her hands went to her lap, and a profound sadness enveloped her face. They left the ATM and headed towards her gate.
Realizing my own shortsightedness, I quickly inserted my card, took my money, and headed to find them. This shouldn’t be so hard, I thought, there aren’t that many people in wheelchairs. The hallway reached out with people shoulder to shoulder. Looking left a twosome came into sight and I headed their way. After weaving and dodging for 100 yards, there they were! He was talking kindly to her as he pulled her over to wait. I knelt down next to her; “You want to help this young man for his kindness. I saw you at the ATM. Here’s some money for you to give him.” I handed her $20. “Oh, thank you honey! You don’t know how much this means to me.” “And to me as well!” I thought: you’ll never know. “Merry Christmas!” With a smile on her face and a befuddled look on the young man’s, I turned towards my gate grateful, once again, for Advent and Jesus’ unusual and beautiful ways of showing up.
The Rev. Alvin Johnson is Canon for Congregational Vitality and Innovation for the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
The above cartoon recently popped up on my Facebook feed. It’s by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, and depicts ‘the Advent police’ citing people for putting up Christmas ornaments and singing Christmas carols during Advent. Silly, right? Normally I would just chuckle and keep scrolling, but for some reason this particular image made me stop and really look.
Can you imagine if there really WERE an Advent police? I know for a fact that the dollar store downtown would be awash in violations, since I’m pretty sure I recall the Christmas aisle being set up the week before Halloween this year. Think of all the fines that could be set aside for mission funds! (Just kidding.) Then again, how many of us are really able to go the entire four weeks before Christmas without trimming the tree or humming a few bars of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ when we hear it played over the store loudspeakers while doing our Christmas shopping?
As a former (recovering?) church organist and cantor, I find Advent to be one of the most fascinating times in the church year. Though the calendar year is drawing to a close, it’s just the beginning of the liturgical year – a time of quiet, preparation, and yes – anticipation of the coming Savior. The days are shorter, the hymns on Sunday a bit quieter than during the season after Pentecost, and the readings talk about waking from sleep and preparing the way of the Lord.
One hymn in particular makes me marvel every year: ‘O Come, Divine Messiah’. If you’re not familiar with the tune, please do look it up on YouTube. The music is light, just a tiny bit bouncy, but combined with the lyrics it’s an amazing summation of the anticipation and longing of the Advent season. We wait in the dark and quiet of these weeks of December, yearning for Jesus to come to Earth for our redemption and to bring joy and light into our lives.
“Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.”
I finally made a note in pen at the top of my sheet music to tell the choir not to speed up at that point, because every. single. time. we sang that piece they would get so excited it was like trying to hold back runaway horses. “Hurry, Jesus! We’ve been waiting for so long!” Women in their 80s were singing with all the enthusiasm and impatience of my two year old daughter – “Now, Mommy? Now?”
It’s a busy time of year, and many of us have to-do lists as long as our arm, making our physical preparations for the coming of the Lord. Try to take a few moments this week, though, to quiet your mind and enjoy that thrilling anticipation that comes from having to wait.
“O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.”
Megin Sewak is Communications Specialist for the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
Following Jesus in the Seasons of the Soul
Saturday, December 5, 2015 – 9am-12pm
St. Mark’s Church, 4701 Old French Road, Erie, PA
Light refreshments provided
No Cost to Attend
Please join Nancy Beach and our diocesan family as we enter Advent Season and explore how, as One Church, we grow in our discipleship through the seasons of our soul: restlessness, loss, new beginnings and abundance. In every season there are lessons to be learned. Besides a faithful Christian life, Nancy brings with her many years as Arts/Worship Leader and Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. She currently coaches and consults with congregations and communities around the world. Her purpose with our diocesan family is this: we desire to grow as disciples and leaders and she can, in the anticipation of Advent and with God’s Grace, open our hearts and minds to the Spirit’s work in the everyday of our very human lives. Come join us on December 5 as we follow God and Bishop Sean’s vision of One Church.
Nancy has always been a passionate champion for artists and leaders in the local church. For over 20 years she served as the Programming Director for Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, building a community of artists who sought to create transformational moments in Sunday morning church services. Nancy also served as a Teaching Pastor, periodically bringing the weekend message. Currently, Nancy serves as a leadership coach with the SlingShot Group, helping church leaders and teams to flourish in life and ministry. Nancy also uses her teaching gifts to cast vision at conferences and workshops, for both artists and women in leadership. In her book, An Hour on Sunday, Nancy expresses the core vision and values which she believes are foundational to any effective arts ministry. Nancy’s second book is titled: Gifted to Lead: the Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church.
Nancy and her husband Warren live in the village of Barrington, Illinois with their dog, Beanie. Their two daughters, Samantha and Johanna, are both theatrical artists.
We have added some new pages and updated others on our website. Click on the titles to get useful information, specific resources and upcoming event information:
Convention 2014 results and updates. Find out about adopted resolutions, courtesy resolutions, election results, Bishop Sean’s nominations and appointments, and workshop and presentation materials and links.
Strategic Plan. Take a look at the strategic plan outline and strategic plan reports from 2013 and 2014.
Devotional Resources. Daily devotions, liturgical calendars, lesson plans, sermons, bible studies and commentaries from both Anglican/Episcopal and Lutheran (ELCA) sources.
Advent Resources. Print, digital and social media resources from our own diocese and from national sites.
Mission Trip 2015. A Diocesan mission trip is being organized to Christo Salvador in the Dominican Republic for July 2015.
Convention 2015. Dates and location.
Diocesan Church Center Library. All titles (with the exception of the Bishop Israel collection) may be borrowed from the Diocese.
Adapted from“The Voice, Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians”
Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christians anticipate the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming. In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again. That acknowledgment provides a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.
Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!
It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.
See more posts about Advent at these Blogs:
Go to our website for Advent resources