Archive for the ‘December 14’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Titus

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part IV

DECEMBER 13 and 14, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:1-8 (Thursday)

Amos 8:4-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 12:2-6 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (Friday)

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In that day, you shall say:

“I give thanks to You, O LORD!

Although You were wroth with me,

Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me,

Behold the God who gives me triumph!

I am confident, unafraid;

For Yah the LORD is my strength and might,

And He has been my deliverance.”

Joyfully shall you draw water

From the fountains of triumph,

And you shall say on that day:

“Praise the LORD, proclaim His name.

Make His deeds known among the peoples;

Declare that His name is exalted.

Hymn the LORD,

For He has done gloriously;

Let this be made known

In all the world!

Oh, shout for joy,

You who dwell in Zion!

For great is your midst

Is the Holy One of Israel.”

–Isaiah 12:1-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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“That day” in Isaiah 12:1 is when God will begin to send Hebrew exiles to their ancestral homeland, a place they have never known.  They have firsthand and secondhand accounts of it, but they have always lived in a foreign country.

The prophet Amos anticipated that exile and condemned the hubris and complacency of many in the population as the kingdom approached its end.  He also criticized those who maintained sacred rituals outwardly while exploiting and cheating people.  Holy rituals are serious matters, not talismans which protect those who sin without repenting, Amos wrote.

God is generous and grace is free.  That free grace can prove to be most inconvenient, for it is costly, not cheap.  Accepting grace imposes great responsibilities upon the recipient.  This was on the mind of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians.  St. Titus was collecting funds for the benefit of the Christians at Jerusalem.  Some of the most generous donors were those who had known great hardship and deprivation.  God had guided them through those perilous times and provided for them.  Now they were sharing enthusiastically.  2 Corinthians 8:15, quoting Exodus 16:18, which referred to manna in the Sinai Desert, established a fine standard:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Everyone has enough in divine economics.  Artificial scarcity, which is sinful, is a human creation.

Giving in thankful response to divine faithfulness and generosity can entail donating many things, including money.  Focusing exclusively or primarily on money, however, is in error, for doing so ignores or gives short shrift to other forms of giving.  One might have little money but plenty of time to share a necessary skill or talent, for example.  Money pays bills and wages, so nobody should ignore its necessity, but sometimes giving only money is the easy way out of exercising one’s full responsibility.  Whatever one has to give, may one donate it for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  May one give cheerfully and out of gratitude for divine faithfulness and generosity.  It will never be enough to compare to what God has done, is doing, and will do, but that is not the point.  I think of a witty Billy Collins poem about a child giving a lanyard to his or her mother.  No gift to God or one’s mother can match what God or one’s mother has done for one, but the thought is what counts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/the-faithfulness-and-generosity-of-god-part-iv/

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Advent and Christmas Message   1 comment

advent-and-christmas-message

Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….

–Luke 1:46-47, The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

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One of the great virtues of High Churchmanship is having a well-developed sense of sacred time.  So, for example, the church calendars, with their cycles, tell us of salvation history.  We focus on one part of the narrative at a time.  Much of Protestantism, formed in rebellion against Medieval Roman Catholic excesses and errors, has thrown the proverbial baby out with the equally proverbial bath water, rejecting or minimizing improperly the sacred power of rituals and holy days.

Consider, O reader, the case of Christmas–not in the present tense, but through the late 1800s.  Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas when they governed England in the 1650s.  Their jure divino theology told them that since there was no biblical sanction for keeping Christmas, they ought not to do it–nor should anyone else.  On the other hand, the jure divino theology of other Calvinists allowed for keeping Christmas.  Jure divino was–and is–a matter of interpretation.  Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians kept Christmas.  Many Methodists on the U.S. frontier tried yet found that drunken revelry disrupted services.  Despite this Methodist pro-Christmas opinion, many members of the Free Methodist denomination persisted in anti-Christmas sentiment.  The holiday was too Roman Catholic, they said and existed without

the authority of God’s word.

Thus, as the December 19, 1888 issue of Free Methodist concluded,

We attach no holy significance to the day.

–Quoted in Leigh Eric Schmidt, Consumer Rites:  The Buying and Selling of American Holidays (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1995), page 180.  (The previous quote also comes from that magazine, quoted in the same book.)

Many Baptists also rejected the religious celebration of Christmas.  An 1875 issue of Baptist Teacher, a publication for Sunday School educators, contained the following editorial:

We believe in Christmas–not as a holy day but as a holiday and so we join with our juveniles with utmost heartiness of festal celebration….Stripped as it ought to be, of all pretensions of religious sanctity and simply regarded as a social and domestic institution–an occasion of housewarming, and heart-warming and innocent festivity–we welcome its coming with a hearty “All Hail.”

–Quoted in Schmidt, Consumer Rites, pages 179 and 180

Presbyterians, with their Puritan heritage, resisted celebrating Christmas for a long time.  In fact, some very strict Presbyterians still refuse to keep Christmas, citing their interpretation of jure divino theology.  (I have found some of their writings online.)  That attitude was more commonplace in the 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, passed the following resolution at its 1899 General Assembly:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

–Page 430 of the Journal of the General Assembly, 1899  (I copied the text of the resolution verbatim from an original copy of the Journal.)

I agree with Leigh Eric Schmidt:

It is not hard to see in this radical Protestant perspective a religious source for the very secularization of the holiday  that would eventually be so widely decried.  With the often jostling secularism of the Christmas bazaar, Protestant rigorists simply got what they had long wished for–Christmas as one more market day, a profane time or work and trade.

Consumer Rites, page 180

I affirm the power of rituals and church calendars.  And I have no fear of keeping a Roman Catholic holy day and season.  Thus I keep Advent (December 1-24) and Christmas (December 25-January 5).  I hold off on wishing people

Merry Christmas

often until close to Christmas Eve, for I value the time of preparation.  And I have no hostility or mere opposition to wishing anyone

Happy Holidays,

due to the concentrated holiday season in December.  This is about succinctness and respect in my mind; I am not a culture warrior.

Yet I cannot help but notice with dismay the increasingly early start of the end-of-year shopping season.  More retailers will open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year.  Many stores display Christmas decorations before Halloween.  These are examples of worshiping at the high altar of the Almighty Dollar.

I refuse to participate in this.  In fact, I have completed my Christmas shopping–such as it was–mostly at thrift stores.  One problem with materialism is that it ignores a basic fact:  If I acquire an item, I must put it somewhere.  But what if I enjoy open space?

I encourage a different approach to the end of the year:  drop out quietly (or never opt in) and keep nearly four weeks of Advent and all twelve days of Christmas.  I invite you, O reader, to observe these holy seasons and to discover riches and treasures better than anything on sale on Black Friday.

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/nineteenth-century-evangelical-support-for-a-secular-christmas/

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/advent-and-christmas-message/

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Christmas Thoughts   1 comment

st-teresas-december-23-2011

Above:  Live Nativity Scene, St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church, Acworth, Georgia, December 23, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,

And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

–Martin Luther; translated by William James Kirkpatrick

Yesterday I sang in my parish choir’s performance of the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah.  We dropped “His yoke is easy and his burden is light,” culminating instead in the Hallelujah Chorus.  The concert was glorious and spiritually edifying for many people.

There are still a few days of Advent left.  So I encourage you, O reader, to observe them.  Then, beginning sometime during the second half of December 24, begin to say

Merry Christmas!

and continue that practice through January 5, the twelfth and last day of Christmas.  And I encourage you to remember that our Lord and Savior was born into a violent world, one in which men–some mentally disturbed, others just mean, and still others both mean and mentally disturbed–threatened and took the lives of innocents.  Names, circumstances, empires, nation-states, and technology have changed, but the essential reality has remained constant, unfortunately.

The Hallelujah Chorus, quoting the Apocalypse of John, includes these words:

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

That is not true yet, obviously.  But that fact does not relieve any of us of our responsibilities to respect the Image of God in others and to treat them accordingly.  We must not try to evade the duty to be the face and appendages of Christ to those to whom God sends us and those whom God sends to us.  We cannot save the world, but we can improve it.  May we do so for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May the peace of Christ, born as a vulnerable baby and executed as a criminal by a brutal imperial government, be with you now and always.  In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/christmas-thoughts/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Rising Star Delenn

Above:  Ambassador Delenn, from Rising Star, a 1997 Episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

Faith Manages

DECEMBER 14, 15, and 16, 2017

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Habakkuk 3:2-6 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:13-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Philippians 3:7-11 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:12-16 (Friday)

Mathew 21:28-32 (Saturday)

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Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come in again with joy, shouldering their shears.

–Psalm 126:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days combine to constitute a tapestry of hope, faith, violence, and judgment.

The lessons from Habakkuk complain to God about persistent injustice and report a divine reply that (A) God will settle scores one day, and (B) the righteous must remain faithful during trying times.  Some of the material is disturbing:

You tread the earth in rage,

You trample nations in fury.

You have come forth to deliver Your people,

To deliver Your anointed.

You will smash the roof of the villain’s house,

Raze it from foundation to top.

You will crack [his] skull with Your bludgeon;

Blown away will be his warriors,

Whose delight is to crush me suddenly,

To devour a poor man in an ambush.

–Habakkuk 3:12-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Happier is the end of the book:

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are n the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

Exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord GOD is my strength:

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.

–Habakkuk 3:17-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I have written many times, I understand the reality that some oppressors will not cease oppressing until someone forces them to do so.  Thus a rescue mission becomes necessary.  This is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for the oppressors.  Yet the imagery of God cracking open skulls bothers me.

The note of judgment continues in Matthew 21:28-32, set in the context of the final days leading up to our Lord and Savior’s crucifixion.

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The bad news for chief priests and elders, beneficiaries of the Temple system, comes amid a series of controversies in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45) follows on the heels of those harsh words, for example.

St. Paul the Apostle picks up the theme of remaining faithful during difficult times in Philippians.  His reference to the righteous living by faith echoes a line from Habakkuk–a nice touch, which the lectionary amplifies.  Faith, in the Pauline sense of that word, is inherently active, compelling one to do something.  In contrast, the definition of faith in the Letter of James is intellectual, hence that author’s insistence on pairing works with faith.  So no disagreement between Sts. Paul and James regarding faith and works exists.  Maintaining that active faith under great pressure is both difficult and crucial, as St. Paul knew well.

When times and circumstances challenge our trust in God, may we say with St. Paul:

But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison to the superior value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.   I have lost everything for him, but whatever I have lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found with him.

–Philippians 3:8-9a, Common English Bible (2008)

Faith (in the Pauline sense) functions in the absence of proof for or against a given proposition.  As Ambassador Delenn, a character from Babylon 5 (1994-1998), one of my favorite science fiction series, said,

Faith manages.

(Indeed, that was one of the major themes of the series.)  Faith keeps one on the proper path when, as Habakkuk wrote, the crops have failed and the livestock have vanished.  If we give up, we have decided to act in a way which will create a more negative future.  Yet if we persist, we act based on hope.  Such hope as overcome incredible odds many times, from ancient to contemporary times.  Many people have suffered and died so that members of subsequent generations can lead better lives.

Advent is a season of hope and violence.  Some of the violence is contemporary.  Other violence comes from the texts we read.  For example, St. Mary of Nazareth, the mother of our Lord and Savior, would have died by stoning if not for the graciousness of St. Joseph.  Faith manages during times of doubt, despair, and suspicion.  It persists during protracted periods of whisper campaigns and rumor-mongering, such as Jesus and his mother had to endure.

May we, by grace, have healthy faith from God in God, in whom both judgment and mercy exist.  And may we leave the judgment to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIP NICOLAI, JOHANN HEERMANN, AND PAUL GERHARDT, HYMN WRITERS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/faith-manages/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

23194v

Above:  The River Jordan, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23194

Loyalty and Perseverance

DECEMBER 12-14, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:6-18 (Thursday)

Ruth 4:13-17 (Friday)

1 Samuel 2:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 146:5-10 (all days)

2 Peter 3:1-10 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:11-18 (Friday)

Luke 3:1-18 (Saturday)

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Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,

whose life is in the Lord their God;

Who made the heaven and the earth,

the sea and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise forever;

Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong

and bread to those who hunger.

–Psalm 146:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Ruth is a story of loyalty–loyalty to people to each other and to God.  The theme of loyalty occurs again in 2 Samuel, where David praises those who had been loyal King Saul, who had tried to kill him more than once.  But Saul had been the anointed one of God, despite his many faults.  Loyalty to God, according to St. John the Baptist, was something one expressed by, among other things, treating each other honestly and respectfully.  And we read in 2 Peter 3 that God’s sense of time differs from ours, so we ought not to lose heart over this fact.

Another Recurring theme in these readings is the human role in God’s good work.  Jesus became incarnate via St. Mary of Nazareth, who was not the passive figure many have imagined her to be.  St. John the Baptist was far from “respectable.”  And Naomi and Ruth conspired to seduce Boaz.  As the Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust wrote:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved, immigrant daughter-in-law, women can raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (New York:  HarperOne, 2011, page 33)

The methods of God’s grace can be scandalous and merely unpleasant to certain human sensibilities much of the time.  Will we reject that grace because of its vehicles?  And will we lose heart because God seems to be taking too much time?  Loyalty to God is of great importance, no matter hos shocking or delayed God’s methods might seem to us.

The liturgical observance of Advent acknowledges both scandal and perceived tardiness.  St. Joseph of Nazareth had to spare the life of his betrothed due to the scandal of her pregnancy.  And nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, where has he been?  But we should not lose heart.  May we not do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/loyalty-and-perseverance/

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Advent Renewal   Leave a comment

Snapshot_20121202

Above:  The Author on December 2, 2012

The cycle turns

from the Season after Pentecost

to Advent again;

Christ is King,

the announcement of the end of the old order

makes room for

the announcement of the new order.

Soon (liturgically),

a child will be born defenseless

into a dangerous world,

and, today,

I recall that perfidy must never

extinguish innocence and love.

The church year begins again

in apprehension and hope

and in the shadow of Calvary and an empty tomb–

again, apprehension and hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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An Invitation to Observe a Holy Advent   2 comments

Above:  St. David’s Episcopal Church, Roswell, Georgia, December 18, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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Advent receives inadequate attention.  The season is certainly not commercial.  Indeed, Christmas receives much commercial attention even before Halloween, for retailers need the money from Christmas-related sales to sustain stores through other times of the year.  I admit to being of two minds.  On one hand I do my rather limited Christmas shopping at thrift stores, so my deeds reveal my creed.  Yet I know that many jobs depend on Christmas-related sales, so I want retailers to do well at the end of the year.  Nevertheless, I am not very materialistic at heart; the best part of Christmas is intangible.  And nobody needs any more dust catchers.

Observing Advent is a positive way of dropping out of the madness that is pre-December 25 commercialism.  The four Sundays and other days (December 2-24 in 2012) preceding Christmas Day are a time of spiritual preparation, not unlike Lent, which precedes Easter.  Garrison Keillor used the term “Advent Distress Disorder” (ADD) in a monologue last year.  Indeed, finding positive news in the midst of apocalyptic tones of Advent readings can prove difficult.  Yet the good news remains and the light shines brightest in the darkness.

So, O reader, I invite you to observe a holy Advent.  Embrace the confluence of joy and distress, of darkness and light.  And give Advent all the time it warrants through December 24.  Christmas will arrive on schedule and last for twelve days.  But that is another topic….

Pax vobiscum!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF TE WHITI O RONGOMAI, MAORI PROPHET

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANE VERNARD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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