Sunday, December 16: 10:00 a.m.
Christmas Pageant

Advent 2 RCL-C* 12-9-18                                                  St. John’s Church

Rev’d Jennifer Phillips                       Baruch 5:1-9; Philip.1:3-11; Lk3:1-6


We Christians always wait as Easter people. We are not those who weep by the tomb in which Jesus is laid on Good Friday; we are those who are astounded by joy at the empty tomb finding the risen Lord. We are not those who trudge toward the promise of a vain star; we are those who have already heard the news of the child in the manger and watched him live out his good life, into resurrection. Our waiting and longing is paradoxically already full of joy and the promise of fulfillment.

Perhaps, like me, you can remember as a child waking up on a Christmas morning with that tingle of delight that the day had come. I hope for you that you have that sort of memory and that for you this isn’t a fantasy of a kind of holiday that never really came for you. In any gathering of people there are some who are called to the hard task and peculiar grace of hoping for that kind of experience which they have never known – and I trust that God’s promise will bless them, particularly in this time.

Our family tradition was to hang the full Christmas stocking on the child’s bedpost, so it would be the first thing I would see on waking. This required considerable lightness of foot and delicacy of operation for Santa so as not to get caught in the act! So the stocking would be bulging with little packages that could be opened immediately, some time around dawn, the first-fruits of the lovely array of Christmas packages waiting downstairs under the tree that must wait for the tediously slow grown-up process of arising, and the family to have breakfast and be assembled for opening. One year, the thing that thrilled me in that stocking was tracing paper! And there would always be a sugar mouse- an English tradition. So the Christmas morning awakening was heart-full of that glorious moment of delight in which desire had just begun to be fulfilled but wasn’t complete yet. This, too, is how we wait in Advent: with hearts delight-full and still expectant, the first gift before us.

Next week we will delight in the nativity pageant, led by our children – for small children are those who know how to receive a promise—with trust, delight, and expectation not dimmed by disappointments and betrayals as is so often true for adults. Jesus arrives, his story the fulfillment of generations of promise. “A shoot shall come forth from the stump of Jesse,” says the poetry of the prophet Jeremiah that we heard last Sunday, and that shoot first brings David and later his many-times-great-grandson Jesus. We are meant to realize that our stories, too, are linked to God’s promise, which Luke tells us, started with Adam and Eve. Part of the promise is fulfilled, part is still to come. We are a portion of that great Jesse-tree of divine history which grows from an insignificant, even invisible start, smaller than a mustard seed, to a great tree with room for all the birds of the air – even all of us – to find a perching place. The whole span of time hangs together, a garland held between the hands of God.

This second Sunday of Advent begins with the prophet Baruch and a wonderful vision of what was hoped for and promised but had not yet come, return from a time of exile and tribulation: “Arise, O Jerusalem! Stand on the heights; look toward the East and see your children gathered from the west and the east at the word of the Holy One….God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low, and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.” Homecoming has begun.

I think that it is only the hearts that have known exile, or that have seen home shattered and lost, or perhaps those that have longed and never yet known a safe home, that can fully appreciate the homecoming that is our destination in God. Those who have been parents – maybe even more, grandparents – also may also have a special resonance with Baruch’s vision of the scattered children  being gathered home. The whole creation cooperates! The mountains bow down before God. The valleys fill up, so that the children may walk in safety. The insurmountable obstacles between us and God melt away. The gulfs between us and God are filled and bridged. The father opens his arms for the prodigal son’s return. In Advent we get to stand in both positions: we are the parents about to gather the children back into our arms. We are the children being brought home and about to be embraced and feasted. This is the heart-full moment of Advent.

The portions letters of Paul for this season are full of the warmth of affection in the little Christian communities he loved. He wishes that the church in Thessaloniki might “increase and abound in love.” He describes for the Christians at Philippi how their “love should overflow.” The good work begun in the community shall be brought to cosmic completion by Jesus Christ. There is an inevitability that, once we have grasped the magnitude of what God has done for us through Christ, we will be overtaken by joy and our hearts will overflow in love toward one another. This is true even though the present moment may be dark and full of foreboding, signs of ending seem all around us, troubles lying thick on the ground. The coming reign of God is unstoppable – like wildfire over the grass, like spring torrents cascading from the heights. So even while we are waiting, we may have hearts full of rejoicing, hearts overflowing with divine love - remember?- like laps filled with grain in full measure, shaken down, spilling over.

Late Advent will bring us to Mary and Elizabeth – the two pregnant women embracing one another in the joy of God’s surprising promise. We, too, may rejoice with Elizabeth who has waited so long, she is old and weary with waiting, but at last is fulfilled. We, too, become God-bearers like young Mary, heavy with life, replete with creative energy, joyful with purpose. And our own life leaps up like Elizabeth’s child in the womb sensing the near presence of the Holy One. Our hearts are full this season of the coming of Christ – as the blessed child Jesus, as the resurrected Christ, as the One coming in glory to gather all history – the world’s history, our own histories-- into the just and merciful hands of God. 

So in this second week of Advent, make a little time to go apart into the silence, visit your own heart to discover with what it may be full. Nurture and increase the joy within you. Tend it like a small flame in a windy place. Notice whether it takes you by surprise, like Mary’s joy, or is the fruit of long and weary waiting in a bleak emptiness like Elizabeth's. And through the weeks of Advent to come, pile tinder on the fire – nourish your own joy. Make room and time for God to add to it. Cherish your blessings. Take pleasure in the first gifts. Delight in that to which you look forward. Renew your hope. Let your soul magnify the Lord who looks at you with such love and favor.

WEEKLY SCHEDULE                          

Sunday Worship: 10:00  a.m. 
Wednesday Eucharist: 10:15 a.m 

This is St. John's Episcopal Church... please click on photo below to see more photos of church life!

This is St. John's Episcopal Church, Westwood MA

Want to check on the readings for a particular Sunday or other day?  Click below to go to the Lectionary page...  all readings available for 2018:

Rev. Dr. Jennifer M. Phillips
Displaying IMG_2221.jpg
Jennifer joins us at the Norwood Sports Center for bowling with members of Ecclesia Ministries.


Wednesday, December 12, 10:15 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist

Saturday, December 15, 11:00 a.m- 12:30 p.m.: Pageant Rehearsal. A healthy snack will be provided.

Sunday, December 16, 10:00 a.m.: Our Christmas Pageant! There will be a final rehearsal this morning @ 9:15 a.m. Please come in costume!

Tuesday, December 18, 7:00 p.m.: Bible Study followed by Celtic style Compline in the Rectory

Wednesday, December 19, 10:15 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist

Sunday, December 23, 10:00 a.m.:
Holy Eucharist, festive coffee hour at the Rectory!

Monday December 24, 5:00 p.m.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Choral Service for all ages

Tuesday, December 25, Christmas Day, 9:oo a.m.
Holy Eucharist

Sunday, December 30: First Sunday after Christmas & New Year's Feast of the Holy Name Celebration

Looking Ahead:

Friday & Saturday, January 4 & 5: CityReach overnight program for High School youth at St. Paul's Cathedral, Boston.

We will be collecting warm winter clothing throughout the month of December to distribute on January 5. You will find a large box for donations in the narthex. Mens' large sizes especially needed. Thank you!

Christian Discipleship in Action via St. John’s

Come join in:

Oasis Ministrieswe cook and serve a monthly hot chicken dinner to about 100 homeless neighbors in downtown Boston on 2nd Mondays.

Ecclesia outreachwe invite homeless and poor neighbors from Boston to Hale Reservation for a summer picnic and for a Spring bowling afternoon in Norwood.

Tutoring after-school reading and homework help for city children at Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan on Tuesday afternoons.

Pantry support for the Westwood Food Pantry and the Center for Life elderly housing complex in Mattapan – bring non-perishable groceries to church year round.

Habitat for Humanity home buildcoming soon, a St. John’s team to help build an affordable home in Westwood.

Prayer Shawlsknitting group prayerfully makes shawls for people facing illness or crisis.

Urban Promise Honduras missioners from St. John’s & CHS travel to learn and work with children at a school in Copan every few years.

Boston B-SAFE summer program our team works during a July week each year to provide meals and a field trip & picnic for this large city children’s program.

Eucharistic Visiting members are trained and take the Sacrament, offer healing prayer, and make friendly visits to people who are homebound, in hospital, or other institutional settings.

Speak to Rev. Jennifer if you’d like to put your discipleship to work in one or more of these parish ministries!