O Come, Divine Messiah!

advent-policeThe 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. 

Lent Madness Starts Tomorrow

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(Excerpted from the Lent Madness website)

Lent Madness began in 2010 as the brainchild of the Rev. Tim Schenck. In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the Church’s Calendar of Saints, Tim came up with this unique Lenten devotion. Combining his love of sports with his passion for the lives of the saints.

Click here to go straight to this year’s bracket.

The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and Who will win the Golden Halo?people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.

Lent Madness has also inspired thousands of people along the way by forming an online community of people who are passionate about taking their faith but not themselves too seriously. Articles and spots about Lent Madness have appeared in the Washington Post, NPR, Huffington Post, FOXNews, NBC, USAToday, and even Sports Illustrated.

Lent Madness has allowed people to get to know some amazing people who have come before us in the faith and reminds us that there’s no reason for a dreary Lenten discipline. If this helps people connect with the risen Christ during this season of penitence and renewal, and have a bit of fun in the process, then it continues to be worthwhile.

We hope you’ll participate fully this Lent and vote with reckless abandon!

Click here to get started.

Lent Madness 2015: Which saint will win the Golden Halo?

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For the sixth year running, people worldwide are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which thirty-two saints do battle to win the coveted Golden Halo. Calling itself the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion, Lent Madness brings together cut-throat competition, the lives of the saints, humor, and the chance to see how God works in the lives of women and men across all walks of life.

The creator of Lent Madness, the Rev. Tim Schenck, says, “People might think Lent is all about eating dirt and giving up chocolate, but it’s really about getting closer to Jesus.” Schenck, who is rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, adds, “The saints aren’t just remote images in stained glass windows or pious-looking statues. They were real people God just happened to use in marvelous ways.”

Lent Madness began on Schenck’s blog in 2010 as he sought a way to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. Starting in 2012, he partnered with Forward Movement (the same folks that publish Forward Day by Day), to bring Lent Madness to the masses.

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Schenck’s Lent Madness co-conspirator, says, “Throughout Lent, as we’re having fun with the competition, we are also inspired by how God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” Gunn, who is executive director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, adds, “That’s the whole point of the Christian life: to allow God to work in us to share God’s love and proclaim Good News.”

Schenck and Gunn form the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee, a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship that runs the entire operation. The formula has worked as this online devotional has been featured in media outlets all over the country including NBC, The Washington Post, FOXNews, NPR, USAToday, and even Sports Illustrated (no, really).

Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.
This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. 2015 heavyweights include Teresa of Avila, Frederick Douglass, Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen, Balthazar, and the Venerable Bede. The full bracket is online at the Lent Madness website.

From the “you can’t know the saints without a scorecard” department, the Saintly Scorecard — The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2015 is available through Forward Movement. It contains biographies of all 32 saints to assist those who like to fill out their brackets in advance, in addition to a full-color pull-out bracket.

This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” February 19. To participate, visit the Lent Madness website, where you can also print out a bracket for free to see how you fare or “compete” against friends and family members. Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas.

Ten “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project including the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, CA; the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, KY; Dr. David Creech of Morehead, MN; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, MO; the Rev. Laura Darling of Oakland, CA; Neva Rae Fox of Somerville, NJ; the Rev. Nancy Frausto of Los Angeles, CA; the Rev. David Hendrickson of Denver, CO; the Rev. Maria Kane of Houston, TX; and the Rev. David Sibley of Manhasset, NY. Information about each of the celebrity bloggers and the rest of the team is available on the Lent Madness website.

If you’re looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, consider this your invitation to join in the Lent Madness journey.

The Reverend Canon Scott Gunn
Executive Director
Forward Movement
www.forwardmovement.org

Father Adam’s Guidelines for Using Smartphones in Church

1. Smartphones (and tablets and other electronic devices) are permitted in church and you are free to use them. 2. The goal of using Smartphones is to allow you or others to be more involved in the service, not to distract you.  (Letting people know where you are, sharing a photo, taking notes, or live tweeting the sermon is great.  Looking at grumpy cat photos, not so much.) 3. Turn off the sound and don’t distract other people with whatever technology you may be using, including your voicebox – which is perhaps the oldest social medium. 4. Better to post something on social media during the announcements, hymns, or times when there is more noise or movement.  Better to put down the device and focus during the Gospel and the Eucharistic Prayer. 5. God loves you and is glad you are in church.  Do what you need to do, but try to maintain a spirit of worship and act like a mature adult, even if you aren’t chronologically an adult yet. 6. Regardless of these guidelines, do whatever your parents tell you to do (even if your parents are now in their sixties or seventies).  The Ten Commandments trump Father Adam’s Guidelines.

The Rev. Adam Trambley, Rector, St. John’s, Sharon, PA

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