From the Rector: Mostly Christmas
This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of Advent. The focus of the day is our final Sunday preparation for the great festival of Christmas. Sunday is the ancient, weekly celebration of the resurrection. By the end of the first century, a Sunday in the spring comes to be celebrated as the Sunday of the Resurrection, which we English speakers call “Easter.” By the beginning of the fourth century, a celebration of Jesus’ birth has emerged near the shortest day of the year. We English speakers call this feast “Christmas Day” – the day of the Christ Mass. In the darkness of the year, the true Light comes into the world.
We have two wonderful Christmas Eve services and one very special Mass on Christmas Day. The 5:00 PM Sung Mass on Christmas Eve begins in a sense with Christmas music at 4:30 PM. A special gift has been received for brass players and singers for this service. This relatively new service for us has proved to be a good time for many, especially for families with children. The parish choir sings. The service lasts just over an hour.
Our principal Christmas Eve celebration is the 11:00 PM Solemn Mass. Christmas music is offered at 10:30 PM. Come for the music if you can – you will be sure to get a good seat for the Mass. This service includes the chanting of the “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” and a procession of an image of the Christ child from the altar to the crèche. Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor is the setting for the Mass ordinary. No service of the year seems to be over so quickly. I can’t explain it, but it’s just that way, year after year.
On Christmas Day, Saint Mary’s has a wonderful tradition of the congregation and clergy processing to the crèche during the final hymn of the service. At the crèche, we recite the Angelus and are dismissed. The readings and hymns are different from Christmas Eve. Christmas is a feast when one should be present for the Eucharist on the eve or on the day – and it’s wonderful to come on the eve and the day!
This year, December 21 is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Most years it is the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. In 1983 it was a Wednesday when I was ordained priest at the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, where I was serving. Often newly ordained priests preside at the Eucharist for the first time the day after their ordination. My rector, the Reverend Paul Pritchartt, thought it would be wonderful for my first celebration to be the 11:00 PM Christmas Eve Mass. It was. And it tied my vocation to the liturgy in a quiet but significant way.
I didn’t have much time on Christmas Eve 1983 to think about very much; I was worried about getting it right. The newly ordained priest at the altar wasn’t the focus of the service. It was Christmas. As much as the work of a priest can put him or her in the spotlight, the Christ Mass was the center of everything. It was an experience of being servant of the assembly that continues to shape my understanding of the priesthood and of life.
The Solemn Mass at Saint Mary’s on Christmas Eve begins with the ancient chant, “The Lord said to me: ‘You are my Son, this day have I begotten you.’ ” Twenty-five years ago, it would never have occurred to me that, because of Jesus, these words were as much about you and me as they are about Jesus. I’d like to think I would have come to understand this whether I was a priest or not, but it has been because people have given me the privilege of being their pastor that these words live for me. I cannot imagine my life without the gift of your trust. Thank you. Merry Christmas. Stephen Gerth
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Alan, Marcia, Murray, Richard, Deloris, Mary, Roseanne, Patricia, Gloria, Samuel, Russell, Frank, Stephen, Brooke, Donna, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Joanne, Jennie, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Connie, Rick, and Charles, Priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Omar, Curtis, Timothy, Benjamin, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew, and Brendan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 21: 1881 Reuben Chester Barrows; 1885 Louis M. Schmidt; 1887 Christopher Dixon Varley; 1889 Rose Schmidt; 1896 Harvey Lamb Lufkin; 1914 Ida Blume; 1943 Martha Gilbert Dickinson Bianchi; 1976 David Bruce Kennedy.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Please join us for the Solemn Mass this Sunday to celebrate the Rector’s anniversary of ordination. The Board of Trustees will host a reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall after the Mass. There will also be a special celebration of Solemn Evensong on Sunday. The Reverend Dr. Louis Weil will preach at Evensong – and there will be another reception! . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, December 20. The parish priests do not sit for confessions on the Saturdays in Christmastide. If you wish to make a confession during the Christmas Season, please call to make an appointment . . . The last Mass of Advent is celebrated on Wednesday, December 24, at 9:00 AM . . . Christmas Eve: Music 4:30 PM, Sung Mass 5:00 PM, Music 10:30 PM, Procession & Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Christmas Day: Solemn Mass & Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM . . . December 28: Christmas Lessons & Carol 5:00 PM.
STEWARDSHIP MATTERS . . . As of December 16, we have received pledges from 117 households. The total amount pledged thus far is $342,865.00, which is 66.07% of our goal of $518,970.00. We had a good week in our stewardship campaign (thank you to all who sent their pledges in this past week!), but we are still waiting to hear from 48% of those who pledged for 2008. Our church is an important part of the community and, we hope, an important part of your life. We join in God’s love and sacrifice for us by our personal sacrifices for others. Your help is needed. If you need another pledge card or have questions, please speak with Father Jay Smith.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . On December 24, at 5:00 PM, the choir sings Missa Resurrectionis (1976) by Gerre Hancock (b. 1934), and a selection of carols by Rutter, Willcocks, and Warlock, accompanied by the Saint Mary’s Brass. At 11:00 PM, the setting of the Mass ordinary is the ethereal Mass in G minor by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958). During the prelude before the service, the choral music will include works by Tavener, Howells, and Pearsall. At Solemn Mass on Christmas Day, the choir sings Missa “Dixit Maria” by Hans Leo Hassler (bapt. 1564–1612) and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s (1562–1621) rousing setting of the antiphon Hodie Christus natus est . . . The Saint Mary’s Singers rehearse on December 21 at 3:00 PM (please note the earlier time!) to sing for Solemn Evensong, and to rehearse Christmas music. On December 28, we will sing a service of Christmas Lessons and Carols, with a rehearsal at 2:30 PM. Please contact me if you are interested in singing – we would love you to join us! James Kennerley
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Volunteers are needed to decorate the church for Christmas on Saturday, December 20, from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM and on Tuesday, December 23, from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Please contact either Dale Bonenberger or MaryJane Boland for more details or to confirm that you can help . . . Flowers are needed for many Sundays and feast days following Christmas. If you would like to donate the flowers for any one of these days, please contact Father Mead . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 331.
FROM THE DECEMBER 15, 2008, MEETING OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES . . . The by-laws of the parish require the board to meet annually within the octave of the patronal feast. At this meeting, the normal rotation among the ten members of the trustees takes place. Larry Green and Thomas Jayne completed their four-year terms of service and were recognized by the board for their service. James Dennis was elected to complete the term of service of Michael Innis-Jiménez who has moved. Jim will serve until December 2011. Robin Landis and Leroy Sharer were elected to four-year terms. The officers of the board are elected annually at this December meeting. Jim Dennis was elected vice-president of the board. Steven Heffner was re-elected treasurer and Susan Wamsley was re-elected secretary. Earlier this year the board established the position of assistant treasurer. This office can be held by a member of the parish who is not currently a trustee. Barbara Klett has graciously agreed to serve again. The board adopted a budget for 2009 and reviewed plans for its work in the new year. There will be a general report on the budget in next week’s Angelus. The annual meeting of the congregation will be held on Sunday, May 3, following the Solemn Mass. Susan Wamsley, secretary
SPECIAL NOTES FOR TAX YEAR 2008 . . . If you are 70½ years or older, you can instruct your IRA trustee to distribute funds directly to Saint Mary’s for tax years 2008 and 2009. You will not have to report the withdrawal as income for tax purposes. This distribution will also count toward your mandatory withdrawal amount. Please contact Steven Heffner or Barbara Klett to discuss how to make this special contribution. Both Steven and Barbara can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2008. This is true even if the credit-card bill isn’t paid until next year. Also, checks count for 2008 as long as they are mailed this year. For further details, please see the IRS web page (www.irs.gov) and consult your tax professional.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Monday Saint Thomas the Apostle
Tuesday Advent Weekday
Wednesday Advent Weekday
Thursday Christmas Day
Friday Saint Stephen, Deacon & Martyr No Abstinence
Saturday Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist
Eve of the First Sunday after Christmas Day
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Sung Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Christian Education & Sunday School, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 4:40 PM Organ Recital, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction.
Childcare is available from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM every Sunday.
This Week: Monday, Tuesday and Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass. Please see the newsletter for service details for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
This Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass; 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass. Confessions are heard only by appointment during Christmastide.