From The Rector: Merry Christmas
As I write on Wednesday morning, the first signs of Christmas are appearing at Saint Mary’s. The smell of freshly cut greens is far stronger than the customary smells of candle wax and incense. Our Sunday Advent vestment set is put away for another year; vestments for Christmas are now hanging in the sacristy. Many members and friends of the parish are giving time and energy so that our celebrations can be the best that they can be.
The traditional Proclamation of the Birth of Christ, which is sung at the beginning of Midnight Mass, identifies the birth of Christ as occurring in the “forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace.” But of course the whole world wasn’t at peace, then or now. We human beings have been fighting with each other from the beginning. It was not into the peace of the world that our Lord chose to be born, but into its sin. And it is in this world still marred by sin that the Church celebrates God’s revelation of himself in Christ and God’s plan for humankind.
Great hymn tunes have a way sometimes of hiding the ordinary meaning of hymn texts. I’ve sung the hymn Hark! the herald angels sing all my life. I think only in the last few years have I come to experience it as the Easter hymn it really is. I’m sure that’s because we decided a few years ago to use the traditional English ordering of the text – I think this is the only hymn we do this for.
A reordering of the verses took place for The Hymnal 1940. This reordering was continued in The Hymnal 1982 without explanation by the Church’s commentaries on either hymnal. The original version put our Christmas celebration in the context of Easter. We will finish our hymn this way: “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! the herald angels sing glory to the newborn King!” Born at Christmas in the flesh. Born to eternal life in his death. This is how he brings light and life to all.
My own experience of Christmas Mass is that it always seems to go more quickly than other services. In fact, they don’t. But time stands still in a marvelous way when we gather to recall the birth of Christ. It often seems to me that all who are dear to us are with us on Christmas Eve in Christ. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and the truth of Christ grows stronger in our lives and in our world. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED for Charles Arthur, Carol, Philip, Wayne, Shan, Nicholas, Jack, Sandy, Burt, Dennis, Elsa, Juan, Chris, Regina, Josephine, Robert, Chris, Timothy, Alex, Stephen, Dorothy, Sharon, Margaret, Harold, Marcia, Stephen, Madeleine, William, Gert, Mary, Allan, Rick, Emil, religious, and Pegram, priest; and for the repose of the soul of Frederick . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 27: 1917 Mary Stewart Elliot Carswell; 1926 Arthur Whitson Perry.
A FESTIVAL OF LESSONS & CAROLS . . . On December 27 at 5:00 PM the church will offer a service of nine lessons and carols. The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols and hymns. The format is based on an order of service drawn up by Edward White Benson, later archbishop of Canterbury, for Christmas Eve 1880 in Truro, Cornwall, England. It has been adapted and used by other churches all over the world. Hymns are sung by the congregation and choir. Carols are sung by the Saint Mary’s Singers. An organ recital precedes the service at 4:30 PM. (Please note the earlier time for the organ recital.) The recitalist is Timothy Brumfield.
THE COMPANIONS OF CHRIST . . . Saturday, December 26, is the Feast of Saint Stephen, Deacon & Martyr. The Noonday Office will be prayed at 12:00 PM. Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM . . . Because December 27 is a Sunday, two major feasts are transferred. This year, the Feast of Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist is observed on Monday, December 28. The Holy Innocents is observed on Tuesday, December 29. On both days, the Noonday Office is prayed at 12:00 PM. Mass is celebrated at 12:10 PM. Evening Prayer is at 6:00 PM. Mass is also said at 6:20 PM. (The three feast days that follow Christmas Day are called “The Companions of Christ.” The first Christian martyr is celebrated the day after Christ’s birth. Saint John follows. Then, the Church remembers the slaughter of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem.)
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Church School for children will meet on Sunday, December 27, at 10:00 AM . . . As we go to press, Charles Arthur Schaefer is at the Village Nursing Home for rehabilitation therapy. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Thank you Daniel Craig, Tom Gallagher, Rosemary Kulp, Clark Lemons, Marie Rosseels and Richard Theilmann who worked long and hard on Saturday, polishing brass and working in the sacristy in preparation for Christmas. Thanks also to Robin Landis for polishing the large silver sanctuary lamp . . . On Christmas Eve, following the 5:00 PM Sung Mass, there will be a supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall for our volunteers, acolytes, staff members, and choristers. Please contact Father Jay Smith if you plan to attend. Please speak to Grace Bruni, if you would like to help organize or bring something to eat or drink . . . We recently mailed statements to our members and friends who made pledges for 2009. If you did not receive a statement or if you have questions about your pledge balance, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on January 20, 2010 . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following Sundays: January 17 and 31 and February 7. Please contact the Finance Office if you would like to make a donation . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 195.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2010 . . . As of December 21, 2009, a total of $406,228 has been pledged by 150 households. This represents almost 75% of this year’s goal of $535,044. As our members and friends begin to deal with end-of-year financial matters, we expect to receive a number of additional pledges before January 1. However, we still have not heard back from some households that pledged for 2009. We very much hope to receive pledges from those households and from a number of households that have never pledged before. We are moving slowly but surely towards our goal! If you have questions or comments, or if you need a pledge card, please contact MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner or me. Thank you very much for your continued support. James Ross Smith
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . Christmas Eve music at 4:30 PM will include works by Poulenc and Britten. At the 5:00 PM Mass, the choir sings Missa Festiva by Monnikendam, arranged for organ and brass, and motets by Rutter and Gardner . . . At 10:30 PM the choir sings works by Britten, Gardner and Rutter. At Solemn Mass the setting is Messe en sol majeur by Poulenc. The motets are O magnum mysterium and Hodie Christus natus est, also by Poulenc . . . On Sunday the prelude at Solemn Mass is Les Mages (“The Magi”), the eight movements of Olivier Messiaen’s (1908-1992) organ suite La Nativité du Seigneur (1935). The music is sung by Emilie Williams, James Kennerley and Alan Champion. The setting of the mass ordinary is Mass for Three Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623). James Kennerley
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . After Solemn Mass on Sundays and feast days we try our best to provide warm and gracious hospitality to our many guests and visitors. In order to defray the cost of our coffee-hour and feast-day receptions we invite our members and friends to sponsor a reception. We are looking for donors to help with the receptions on Epiphany (January 6) and on Annunciation (March 25). Please speak with Father Smith if you are able to help with our ministry of hospitality.
OUTREACH MINISTRIES AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items and new or “gently used” clothing for the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church. The Pantry serves families living in our own neighborhood. The Pantry fills an increasingly important need during this time of economic difficulty. Those needs are particularly pressing during the next few weeks. You are invited to bring food or clothing and place it in the basket in Saint Joseph’s Hall after Mass (or at the ushers’ table before Mass). You can also make a cash donation, if that is more convenient for you (Please speak to Father Smith about how to do that; in fact, cash donations are in some ways more efficient and cost-effective) . . . 21st Annual New York Cares Coat Drive: Once again this year – between December 1 and December 31 – we are participating in the Coat Drive and we have already received several coats. You are invited to bring your new or gently used coats, for either children or adults, to church on Sundays. We will deliver them to one of the local donation sites at the end of December . . . We just made another delivery of hand-knitted woolen hats, gloves and scarves to the Seamen’s Church Institute, in Downtown Manhattan. The Institute’s Christmas-at-Sea Program donates warm clothing to merchant mariners visiting the Port of New York and New Jersey, who are not always well-equipped to deal with our region’s winter weather. Thank you to Patricia Mottley, who knitted these items and thank you to Brenda Morgan, who made a trip to the Institute to deliver them. Please speak to Patricia for more information about this project, and about acquiring wool from the Institute . . . Parish of San Juan Evangelista, Villanueva, Honduras: Though we are not planning a mission trip this year, we hope to be able to continue to provide our friends at San Juan Evangelista with financial support. Please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins for details. J.R.S.
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector.
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate.
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon,
The Reverend John Merz, assisting priest.
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.
Saint Mary’s Mission House
Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
The Community of St. John Baptist
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director.
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator.
Aaron Koch, business manager.
Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Tony Santiago, Mr. Timothy Zimmerman, sextons.
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