Sermon, Christmas Eve

It’s good to be with you, this Christmas night – all of you: visitors and guests and familiar faces too, whether you’re here to recapture the feeling of childhood Christmases, or wondering if the Church has anything to say in these times, or you’re just here to make Grandma happy. Welcome, everyone.

It’s Christmas, finally, but I’m going to rewind a little to the season of Advent, in which the Church and her people prepare for Christmas, the season we’ve just completed, or fulfilled. Advent comes from Latin words – Ad plus Venire, meaning, To come towards. And that really is the keyword of Advent: Come, Lord Jesus. Our hymns and prayers and Scriptures say it again. O come, O come, Emmanuel. Come, thou long-expected Jesus. Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to help us. Be patient, beloved ones, until the coming of the Lord. Veni, veni, Emmanuel.

What are we invoking, inviting, calling for, in all those Scriptures and songs and prayers? What arrival or fulfillment are we anticipating, and yearning for, in the season of Advent? Well, first and most obviously: Christmas. Our yearly celebration of God coming to us, among us, as a human infant, humble and vulnerable. Jesus, born of Mary, God with us.

Second: we are praying for the Second Coming, for Christ’s promised return to earth in glory, at the end of history. I think we tend to forget or set aside this aspect of Advent because it’s a little uncomfortable for a churchful of modern enlightened people like ourselves to be actively praying for the end of the world. But what the Church invites us to pray towards, in Advent, isn’t some Left Behind nightmare or zombie apocalypse. Instead, our Scriptures teach us to anticipate a day when this world will pass away, and God’s new world will be born. An ending that’s also a new beginning, a time of transformation and renewal, when God will restore the world to the way it was meant to be, full of beauty and kindness and wholeness. A new world of peace and plenty. A new world in which no child goes hungry, no elder dies alone. A new world in which God wipes away all tears. I won’t claim it doesn’t scare me a little to pray for that world; there’s a lot that’s good for me in the world as it is. But in faith, and in hope for a better world for all God’s children, I pray the prayer of Advent. I pray for Christ to come again. For the dawning of God’s new world.

And I would say there’s a third thing, too: when we pray, Come, Lord Jesus, in Advent, we are asking for God to show up in our individual lives. We’re praying to see and feel God’s presence not in the past or the future but NOW. We give voice to our need and longing for reconciliation in situations of conflict and division; for hope in situations of despair; for peace and joy in situations of grief; for trust and clarity in situations of fear and uncertainty. We pray for light and grace and hope and peace to show up already! – or maybe for our eyes and hearts to open, to see the holy possibilities that are already there.

So the prayer of Advent – Come, Lord Jesus! – it can be weighted with real yearning. We long for the reassuring sweetness of the Nativity story. We long for God’s promised renewal of all that’s tarnished and broken in our world. And we long for God’s grace to show up in the sadnesses and struggles of our lives, right now.

And then it’s Christmas. December 24 rolls around, as it always does. And the Church says, The waiting is over! Jesus is here! God has arrived! Celebrate! But: there’s an incompleteness here. Let’s name that. Christmas offers us, again, the story of God’s arrival in the past. But we’re still waiting on the fulfillment of God’s future. And we are still waiting on God’s grace in so many shadowed places of our lives, and our present world.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, tonight, and tomorrow, will be a time of peace and warmth. With family and friends wrapped around you like a cozy blanket, sharing happy memories and making new ones. But that’s not what tomorrow holds for everyone here. Some of you will be alone. Some of you will be struggling with family dynamics that make you wish you were alone. For some of you, the happy memories cast the shadow of loved ones lost, and good times gone by.

And even for those who are going to have a lovely Christmas Day, the next day, or the day after that, you’ll wake up and read the news, or get phone call or email from somebody angry or in pain, or someone close to you will hit a rough patch in life, and all the brokenness will flood back in.

I was looking for Christmas cards, a few weeks ago. The kind where you upload your photo and they put a pretty frame around it, with some peppy seasonal message. I looked a couple of different sites, and scrolled through pages and pages of designs. And it was the same words over and over again: Merry. Peace. Joy. Jolly. Happy. Bright. Fun. Cheer. And it just started to seem …. so false. Cruelly false.

I am absolutely one of the lucky ones. I have a healthy loving family and good friends and a job I love. And even I didn’t want to order any of those cards. How can I declare happiness when so many are hurting? How can I proclaim peace when so many are afraid? How can I trumpet merriness and cheer when what I really want for my loved ones and congregation is just to take good enough care of ourselves and each other that we’re able to keep doing the work of grace in our shadowed and weary world?

Now, I’m picking unfairly on the Christmas card industry. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sending out wishes for joy and peace to your friends and family. Just like there is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming the next couple of days for happiness and warmth and fun, if you are able to do so. Do it. Absolutely do it.

But when the brokenness floods back in – when a health problem or a loss or a jerk coworker or a news story pops that bright bubble – when that happens, and it will, I don’t want our faith in God who loves us enough to come down and live among us to end up like the pretty Christmas cards that say Merry and Joy and Bright and Cheer in the recycling bin on December 30th.

It’s easy to suspect Christians of being delusional, or in denial. What are Christians – especially preachers – talking about, when we claim the event we celebrate tonight changed anything? It happened 2000 years ago; there’s been plenty of evil and pain in those two millennia. Come, Lord Jesus! Well – he came. Here we are; it’s Christmas. We told the story, and put the wooden baby in the wooden manger, and sang the carols, and sent the cards. But then what? What do we carry away into the week, the year, that follows? How can we say that the baby in the manger fixed the world? How can we claim that this story matters?

But it does. It does matter. Christmas matters. The Church sometimes gives it another name – the Feast of the Incarnation. Incarnation means, becoming a body. Becoming flesh. This is the sacred story of the moment when God became a human being. God became a human being to walk among us, and teach us and show us that there’s a better way. That we don’t have to live by the selfish cruel zero-sum rules of the world; that we can afford to be people of grace and mercy and justice, because God has our backs, and that the better way is the way of life. And God became a human being to share our lives, our experiences. To be footsore and weary, hungry and afraid and in pain. To eat a good meal, embrace a friend, walk on a beach. And by sharing our experiences, to show us once and for all that God is with us in all that we experience.

Stanley Hauerwas, one of the great theologians of our time, writes that the Church “is a gathering of a people who are able to sustain one another through the inevitable tragedies of our lives. They are able to do so because they have been formed by a narrative, [a story], … that claims nothing less than that God has taken the tragic character of our existence into God’s very life.” We are a people formed by a holy story – this story, and all the stories that lead up to it and flow from it – that claims nothing less than that God has taken the pain and grief and struggle of human existence into God’s very life. (Stanley Hauerwas, “A Community of Character”) 

We are not the material creatures of a spiritual god, who looks down at us across some cosmic gulf, who feels disinterested in, or contemptuous of, our bodily needs and experiences, hurts and delights. God is right here in this world with us.

So what we can carry away from Christmas is the trust that we are not alone. When we look at the great sweep of the world’s needs, or the smaller span of our own difficulties and griefs, and cry out for help, for solace, for guidance: Someone hears. Someone is with us, even if we can’t always feel the presence. Someone responds, even if it’s not always in the way we hoped.

In Advent, we pray, Come, Lord Jesus! Come in the beloved holy story of the babe in Bethlehem. Come in your might to transform and renew the whole world. And come in the here and now, because we need you. I need you. We are able to pray those prayers of urgent hope and trust because God IS with us, in the thick of it all. The witness of millennia of people of faith, including me, is that God shows up. That there’s a that gentle shining, a relentless love behind and beneath and above everything; and that it breaks through our distraction and self-importance, sometimes the crack in everything lets the light shine in. And not just in warm fuzzy ways either – hope and love and mercy and all that – but in the fierceness of spurring us to seek justice, which is always right up there with mercy on God’s priority list; in pushing us towards the strange awkward vulnerable places where we tell each other our truths and find new paths towards recognition and reconciliation; in the moments when we think we have given all we have to give, and then something calls to us, a need or a possibility, so bright and urgent that we find we have the strength to stand, after all.

Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation, means that God has arrived. The Church sets aside the prayer of Advent, Come, Lord Jesus!, for another year. But Feast of the Incarnation means, too, that we can carry that prayer with us. We can keep right on seeking and demanding and expecting that God will show up, as we go forth from this feast as a people formed by a story that matters.

Announcements, December 22

TONIGHT AND THIS WEEK…

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in Darkness, Thursday, December 22, 6:30pm (dinner at 5:30pm): On December 22th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 with any questions.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Saturday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Saturday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 10am (NO 8am service!)

 

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE NOTES…

The Parish Office will be closed on Friday, December 23 and will reopen on Monday, January 2nd.

Youth Group will NOT meet on December 23 or 30.

Sandbox Worship will NOT meet on December 29 or January 5th.

 

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, December 25, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller.

Diaper Drive Update: Many families in our area are struggling financially, and they have to make tough decisions about whether to buy much-needed diapers or groceries or pay their rent. The FoodShare program (food stamps) does not cover diapers, other personal care items, or household cleaners. Imagine needing to change your baby’s diaper, but only having a couple left and no money for more.
Pantries are always looking for large-sized diapers. We held a diaper drive this year and raised $2100!  We have donated over 13,200 diapers—enough to diaper two children from birth to potty training—to pantries all over Madison and beyond.
Thank you all for your incredible generosity!

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2017. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated. 

NEXT WEEKEND & BEYOND…

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given next Sunday, January 1, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, January 1, 6pm: Join us for a simple service as the week (and the New Year) begins. All are welcome.

 MOM Special Offering, Sunday, January 1: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are the current to-ten, most needed items: canned chicken, shelf-stable milk, whole grains; salt, pepper, spices; laundry detergent; vanilla or other extracts; low sugar dried/canned fruits; cooking oil; honey; nuts. Thank you for your generous support!

Epiphany Service of Light, Friday, January 6, 5:30pm: Join us as we share the story of the Wise Men who came to honor the infant Jesus, and of how the light of Christ has spread through time and space all the way to here and now! All are welcome. We’ll share a light dinner after the service; feel free to bring something to share. Talk to Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if you’d like to be a reader for this service.

Epiphany Pageant, Sunday, January 15: The children of St. Dunstan’s will present a pageant telling the story of Jesus’ birth and the visit of the Wise Men on Sunday, January 15. There will be a rehearsal after church on Sunday the 8th.  All kids are welcome to participate!

Call for Annual Report Submissions: Every year in December/January, we invite our ministry leaders to submit a paragraph or two about what their ministry is and what they’ve done in the past year, and compile those reports into an Annual Report, shared with the congregation in advance of our parish Annual Meeting (9am on Sunday, January 22). This year we thought we’d cast the net more widely. If you have something you’d like to share, as a special moment, thanksgiving, or success to share, whether from a particular ministry or just something from the life of this household of faith, you’re welcome to submit it to office@stdunstans.com. The deadline for all Annual Report materials is Friday, January 13.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for January 2017! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee  for more information.

Sermon, Dec. 18

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”

That’s all Matthew’s Gospel has to say about Mary’s pregnancy. It’s Luke’s Gospel that gives us the stories that the Church tells in Advent and Christmas: the angelic appearances to Zechariah and Mary, the visit to Elizabeth, Magnificat, the journey to Bethlehem and the birth in a barn, the shepherds visited by an angelic host. Two more of the four Gospels, Mark and John, tell us nothing about Jesus’ birth. John focuses on Jesus’ cosmic nature as the Word that was in the beginning with God. Mark has Jesus as bursting on the scene as a full-grown adult.

And Matthew begins with a genealogy – sixteen verses of Jesus’ ancestors, from Abraham to Joseph. Those first verses tell you something about Matthew: he is intensely interested in Jesus as the continuation – and the completion – of the Old Testament story of God’s relationship with humanity. It’s a theme throughout his account of Jesus’ life, including in today’s Gospel, in which Matthew tells us – for the first time of many – that Jesus fulfills an Old Testament prophecy. “All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’.”

If you’ve been paying attention this morning, you know which prophet Matthew is quoting – this passage comes from today’s text from Isaiah, chapter 7. We hear a lot of Isaiah in Advent; the Church throughout the ages has followed Matthew’s lead and interpreted many passages from Isaiah as pointing towards Jesus. I think that’s okay; we believe that the Bible is inspired text that can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, speak in fresh ways, its meaning never locked down or exhausted. But I also think it’s pretty important for Christians to understand that these texts aren’t only ours. That they had a prophetic word to offer before Jesus was born, and that they continue to be holy texts of hope for people who do not see Jesus as the Messiah.

The gist of this passage from Isaiah 7 is that God is telling King Ahaz, through the voice of Isaiah, that their current crisis – an attack on Jerusalem by two neighboring peoples – is nothing to worry about and will be over soon. That image of the young woman and child is basically giving a timeline. Take a young woman who is currently pregnant – (the Hebrew word here is almah, a young woman of marriageable age; this is a perfectly normal, non-miraculous pregnancy) and by the time the child she bears is old enough to know good from evil – twelve years at most – the nations that currently threaten Judea will be empty. Utterly defeated by another enemy. And Judea will be living high off the hog, curds and honey for days. The child is to be named Immanuel, meaning, God is with us. Meaningful names like that are very common, in the prophetic books – I guarantee you that it did not even cross Isaiah’s mind that anyone would think that the child itself was God. Because the point of this passage, for Isaiah and his first hearers, wasn’t the child, but the promise that their deliverance would come soon.

Now, Matthew knows the Hebrew Bible well, and he reads this passage, and connects it with what he knows and believes about Jesus, whom he does believe is God. He interprets the text in a new way, becoming one of the first to read the Hebrew Bible through the lens of Christian faith. And he quotes this Isaiah text, as he begins his account of Jesus’ life and teaching.

I think Matthew is quoting another Old Testament story, too. It’s less obvious; there are no direct quotations, more of a narrative parallel. But given how well Matthew knew the Hebrew Bible, I think it’s not just a coincidence. The story I have in mind comes from the book of Judges, from the time when the people Israel were living in the promised land, but before their first kings, Saul and David. It’s the story of the birth of Samson, famous for his great strength; less famous for his poor impulse control and anger issues.

Judges chapter 13 begins with, well, with an annunciation. There was a certain man of the tribe of Dan, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Although you have borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now, be careful to avoid wine and unclean foods, and keep yourself pure during your pregnancy, for the boy shall be dedicated to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.’ Then the woman told her husband, ‘A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, “You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be dedicated to God from birth to the day of his death.”

Then Manoah begged God, saying, ‘O Lord, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born.’ God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field. But her husband Manoah was not with her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, ‘The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.’ Manoah got up and followed his wife, and came to the man and said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to this woman?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ Then Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life; what is he to do?’ The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her. She is not to drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. She is to observe everything that I commanded her.”

Is Matthew deliberately echoing this story from Judges? If he is, he’s probably doing so in order to evoke that sense of a baby dedicated to God from birth, a baby who has been seized by God’s holy and redemptive purposes, called to deliver his people from bondage, since even before he was conceived. Now, Samson went on to be a pretty ambiguous figure, but Matthew might still choose to play a few notes from his birth narrative.

Now, I believe – 100% – that the author of Judges intends this story to be funny, in an ironic way. What I can’t decide is whether I think Matthew is in on the joke. He describes Joseph as concerned about marrying Mary, when she turns up pregnant with no sensible explanation, and he seems to find that concern quite legitimate. (By way of contrast, Luke tells us exactly nothing about how Joseph made his peace with the situation.) But while Matthew seems sympathetic to Joseph’s need for his own angelic visitation to settle his fears, the author of Judges is poking fun at Manoah for not believing his wife, who is much more ready to hear God’s good news than her husband. When the angel comes a second time, in response to Manoah’s prayer, it disses Manoah and appears – again – to his wife. SHE has to go find her husband. And the angel’s words emphasize that it’s already been over this: “Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her… She is to observe everything that I commanded her.’

The angel in Matthew’s Gospel is much kinder to Joseph, but the fact remains that we’ve already been told that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and yet an angel still has to come angelsplain the situation to a reluctant husband.

Maybe Matthew isn’t in on the joke. Matthew isn’t, generally speaking, a playful or humorous gospel. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that evoking the story from Judges casts the shadow of Manoah’s ridiculousness over Joseph. I have to admit that there’s a part of me that wants Matthew to be outside the joke. Because I don’t like how he tells this story. I don’t like that he gives a man’s concerns about paternity and honor more weight in the narrative than a woman’s risky Yes to God. And I don’t like that he displays what strikes me as an unnecessary and counterproductive level of interest in the state of Mary’s ladyparts.

But. But. Just when I’m ready to dismiss Matthew as a clueless misogynist, there are the grandmothers. You’ve been hearing their stories. Tamar getting the son Judah owed her, by any means necessary. Rahab using the only resource at her disposal to save her family and claim a new future. Ruth the vulnerable outsider, whose loyalty and love made her part of God’s story. These are not easy stories to tell, especially not with kids in the room. But Matthew evokes them, in those sixteen verses of genealogy, just north of today’s Gospel text. Among Jesus’ ancestors, he names: Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar. Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab. Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth. All women with messy histories of wife-hood and motherhood. Women are not usually named in Biblical genealogies. But Matthew names these women. Evokes their fierce, heartrending, hopeful stories.

It feels like a discovery, to me, to read this story of Joseph this year in light of the genealogy that precedes it, and especially the stories of those surprising women. Maybe what Matthew is up to here is putting Joseph in line with those grandfathers. With Judah, Salmon, Boaz, Manoah. All respectable Jewish men, of some standing and wealth, who had deep-seated cultural assumptions about manhood, marriage, and fatherhood. All men who had to loosen their grip on masculinity and mastery, paternity and propriety, control and comprehension, in order to let God’s purposes play out. All men who, graciously or reluctantly, quickly or slowly, opened themselves to fatherhood and family in ways that were not what they had expected or hoped for.

The midcentury theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, honor, vanity, pride, and reputation, before the manger.” Long before the baby in Bethlehem, Judah, Salmon, Boaz, Manoah, Joseph, were all called to lay down honor, vanity, pride, and reputation before the manger. Before the humble, perplexing, messy ways God chooses to step into our lives and change our stories.

In a few moments, we’ll sing a song that’s become a ritual of Fourth Advent for us: Cloth for a Cradle, cradle for a child… And you’ll be invited to come forward and lay a strip of cloth across our little manger, as a sign of our intentions to prepare our hearts to welcome God, at Christmas and always. May the rich stories of God’s people that we’ve gathered around us this season, stories of brokenness redeemed, emptiness filled, fears transformed and respectability transcended, inspire us to look for what we may be called to lay down before the manger, as a gift of gratitude and humility, and to make room for God to be born anew.

Announcements, December 15

THIS WEEK…

Jesus’ Grandmothers – Ruth: In this Advent season, each week we’re hearing from one of the women in Jesus’ lineage – named in Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew names three surprising women in that genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. This week we will hear from Ruth, whose story is found in the book that bears her name.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, December 18: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Caroling, 2 – 4:30pm, Sunday, December 18: If you know some familiar carols and have a warm heart, please come! We will meet at the church to warm up and share directions, then visit and sing for several members who live near the church, but aren’t always able to attend due to illness or mobility challenges. We also plan a second caroling expedition at 2pm on Friday, December 23rd; talk with Rev. Miranda for details.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, December 18, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, December 18, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

It costs about $370 to send an elementary-school aged child to school for a year in Jeannette, Haiti. Our elementary Sunday school students would like to raise funds to send at least one child in Jeannette to school next year. You can support the kids’ mission by buying chocolates (suggested donation $4 apiece) or just making a donation. If you donate $25 or more, you may take a Haiti Christmas card for someone on your list who’d appreciate a donation made in their honor. You can give by cash or check in the basket in the Gathering Area, or by making an Outreach donation at donate.stdunstans.com, with a note that says “Haiti” in the comment box on the final screen when you are checking out.

Christmas Flowers: Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

Christmas Service Helpers Needed! If you would like to be a part of the Christmas services, we need greeters, ushers and refreshments for each of the three services. Please see the sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area or contact Pamela at office@stdunstans.com.

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2017. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

NEXT WEEKEND & BEYOND…

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in Darkness, Thursday, December 22, 6:30pm (dinner at 5:30pm): On December 22th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda with any questions.

Call for Annual Report Submissions: Every year in December/January, we invite our ministry leaders to submit a paragraph or two about what their ministry is and what they’ve done in the past year, and compile those reports into an Annual Report, shared with the congregation in advance of our parish Annual Meeting (9am on Sunday, January 22). This year we thought we’d cast the net more widely. If you have something you’d like to share, as a special moment, thanksgiving, or success to share, whether from a particular ministry or just something from the life of this household of faith, you’re welcome to submit it to office@stdunstans.com. The deadline for all Annual Report materials is Friday, January 13.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for January 2017! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Saturday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Saturday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 10am (NO 8am service!)

 

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE NOTES…

The Parish Office will be closed on Friday, December 23 and will reopen on Monday, January 2nd.

Youth Group will NOT meet on December 23 or 30.

Sandbox Worship will NOT meet on December 29.

Announcements, December 8

THIS WEEKEND…

Looking for some child-free time? The middle school youth group (and adult helpers) would love to care for your child on Saturday, December 10th while you do some shopping, or just get coffee and read a good book. Child care will be available from 9:00 a.m. to noon at St. Dunstan’s.  There is no charge; however, any tips will go towards the youth group’s summer trip.

Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, December 11: Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Steven Miller, will lead worship, preach, and be available between services (at 9am) for conversation about our diocese and about our call as Christians in the world today. It’s an honor to share Advent with our Bishop and we look forward to our time together!

Sunday school, Sunday, December 11, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will continue to learn about Advent, while our Elementary classes will reflect together on the Magnificat, Mary’s song of hope.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, December 11, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

Jesus’ Grandmothers – Rahab: In this Advent season, each week we’re hearing from one of the women in Jesus’ lineage – named in Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew names three surprising women in that genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. This week we will hear from Rahab, whose story is found in the book of Joshua, chapters 2 and 6.

Help feed the students! St Francis House Dinner, Sunday, December 11: St. Dunstan’s will provide dinner for the St. Francis House community this Sunday. We are asked to provide food for up to 12 people. Vegan and gluten-free options are welcome. Please sign up in the Gathering Area if you can help with the meal, or contact Rev. Miranda.

Sharing Christmas: Many thanks for your generous response to this year’s “Sharing Christmas.” Your thoughtful gifts will bring the joys of Christmas to many families in our community.

It costs about $370 to send an elementary-school aged child to school for a year in Jeannette, Haiti. Our elementary Sunday school students would like to raise funds to send at least one child in Jeannette to school next year – and thanks to your donations and chocolate sales last Sunday, we’re already almost halfway there! You can support the kids’ mission by buying chocolates (suggested donation $4 apiece) or just making a donation. If you donate $25 or more, you may take a Haiti Christmas card for someone on your list who’d appreciate a donation made in their honor. You can give by cash or check in the basket in the Gathering Area, or by making an Outreach donation at donate.stdunstans.com, with a note designating “Haiti” in the comment box on the final screen when you are checking out.

Christmas Flowers: Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

Christmas Service Helpers Needed! If you would like to be a part of the Christmas services, we need greeters, ushers and refreshments for each of the three services. Please see the sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area or contact Pamela at office@stdunstans.com.

Caroling in 2016: Last year a group of singers from St. Dunstan’s had a wonderful time visiting a few of our members and singing Christmas carols. We’d like to do the same this year. All ages are welcome to participate. Possible dates include Saturday, December 17; Sunday afternoon, December 18; and Friday, December 23. Please sign up and indicate your availability in the Gathering Area, or contact Rev. Miranda.

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2017. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, December 14, 7:15-9pm: Thomas Merton called Julian “the greatest theologian for our time.” Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why—and learn about contemplative prayer. We meet the second Wednesday of each month. We’d love to see you.

 NEXT WEEKEND & BEYOND…

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, December 18: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Christmas Pageant Practice, Sunday, Dec. 18, 11:30am: All Actors are invited to a practice session for our Christmas Eve pageant. We will order pizza to sustain our team, and will go no later than 12:30pm.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, December 18, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, December 18, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in Darkness, Thursday, December 22, 6:30pm (dinner at 5:30pm): On December 22th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda with any questions.

Call for Annual Report Submissions: Every year in December/January, we invite our ministry leaders to submit a paragraph or two about what their ministry is and what they’ve done in the past year, and compile those reports into an Annual Report, shared with the congregation in advance of our parish Annual Meeting (9am on Sunday, January 22). This year we thought we’d cast the net more widely. If you have something you’d like to share, as a special moment, thanksgiving, or success to share, whether from a particular ministry or just something from the life of this household of faith, you’re welcome to submit it to office@stdunstans.com. The deadline for all Annual Report materials is Friday, January 13.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Saturday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Saturday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 10am (NO 8am service!)

Announcements, December 1

TONIGHT

Sandbox Worship, Thursday, Dec. 1, 5:30pm:  We will gather for Advent evening worship, and to create prayer gems, a simple project to help us be faithful in prayer for particular people, issues, or situations. All are welcome. Dinner to follow.

 THIS WEEKEND

Men’s Book Club Meeting, Saturday, December 3, 10am: The book is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. “Essential. A compelling and damning exploration of the abuse of one of our basic human rights: shelter”. From abandoned slums to shelters, eviction courts to ghettoes, Matthew Desmond spent years living with and recording the stories of those struggling to survive – yet who won’t give up. A work of love, care and humanity, Evicted reminds us why, without a home, nothing else is possible. It is one of the most necessary books of our time. For more information, contact Jim Hindle.

Caregivers’ Support Group, Saturday, December 3, 9am: The sessions are planned for the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. This will be a safe space to share concerns with others who have similar situations and to offer support in return. For more information, talk with John Rasmus, Bonnie Magnuson or Joseph Wermeling.

Creation Care meeting, Saturday, December 3, 12-1:30pm: We will discuss how to move ahead with living into our Creation Care Mission Statement. Members of the parish who’d like to get involved are welcome to attend.

Sunday school, Sunday, December 4, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will be learning about Advent, while our Elementary classes will explore the prophet Isaiah’s vision of renewal.

Jesus’ Grandmothers – Tamar: In this Advent season, each week we’re hearing from one of the women in Jesus’ lineage – named in Matthew 1:1-17. Matthew names three surprising women in that genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. This week we will hear from Tamar, whose story is found in Genesis chapter 38.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, December 4: This Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: quinoa, farro, barley; various rice (wild, white, black); salt, pepper, spices; cooking oil / butter; honey / maple syrup; holiday foods (cranberries, etc.); canned pumpkin; size 5 & 6 diapers; flour and sugar; low-sugar cereals. Thank you for all your support!

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be will be honored and Healing Prayers will be offered this Sunday, December 4, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month.

Learning about our Diocesan Haiti Partnership, Sunday, December 4, 9am: Heidi Ropa, the chair of our diocesan partnership with the rural community of Jeannette, Haiti, will be with us on Sunday, Dec. 4, to tell us about Jeannette, and the history and future of that partnership. Our Sunday school classes would like to raise funds this Advent to support a student in Haiti, helping with his or her educational and everyday expenses.

After-Church Outreach Opportunity: Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates, 11:45am, Sunday, December 4: The Falk Food Friends Grocery Packing is on hiatus until January; we’ve packed enough groceries to last for a little while! Instead, those who would like a simple way to reach out in care to those beyond our church walls are invited to gather in the Meeting Room to write some Christmas cards to people in the Dane County Jail.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, December 4, 6pm: A simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Caroling in 2016: Last year a group of singers from St. Dunstan’s had a wonderful time visiting a few of our members and singing Christmas carols. We’d like to do the same this year. All ages are welcome to participate. Possible dates include Saturday, December 17; Sunday afternoon, December 18; and Friday, December 23. Please sign up and indicate your availability in the Gathering Area, or talk with Rev. Miranda.

Military and College Student Care Packages – Addresses Needed! The Youth Group is preparing care packages for military personnel and college students. If you have a college student or service member who you would a care package sent to, please provide name and address to Sharon Henes by Sunday, December 4. Donations of small gifts to include in the packages are also welcome. Thank you for your support!

Christmas Shopping at St. Dunstan’s: This Sunday and in the weeks ahead, pick up something for your Christmas list!

 – Haiti Chocolate Bars: Pick up a delicious chocolate bar – or several – made with fairly-traded cocoa from Haiti. The bars are $4 each, and are being sold by our Sunday school kids as part of their fundraising to support school fees for a child in Haiti next year.

– MOM Tribute Cards: For those people on your list who’d prefer a gift to charity. Make a donation of $10 or more, and take a card to give to someone you care about. All proceeds will go to MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry) to support their work preventing homelessness and feeding the hungry. Make checks out to St. Dunstan’s, with “MOM Card” on the memo line.

Help feed the students! St Francis House Dinner, Sunday, December 11: St. Dunstan’s will provide dinner for the St. Francis House community in a few weeks. We are asked to provide food for up to 15 people, and we are invited to attend worship – a festive Christmas hymn sing – with the students at 5pm.  Vegan and gluten-free options are welcome (that’s easier than you think: a veggie stew over rice, bean chili …). Please sign up in the Gathering Area if you can help with the meal, or contact Rev. Miranda.

SHARING CHRISTMAS – Please return gifts by Wednesday, December 7! All the gift tags have been claimed, which is wonderful! If you took a gift tag, please purchase and wrap the requested gift, and return it to church with the gift tag firmly attached to the package. Thank you so much for your generous support of this wonderful Middleton Outreach project that makes Christmas brighter for so many!!

NEXT SUNDAY & BEYOND…

Looking for some child-free time? The middle school youth group (and adult helpers) would love to care for your child on Saturday, December 10th while you do some shopping, or just get coffee and read a good book. Child care will be available from 9:00 a.m. to noon at St. Dunstan’s.  There is no charge; however, any tips will go towards the youth group’s summer trip.

Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, December 11: Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Steven Miller, will lead worship, preach, and be available between services (at 9am) for conversation about our diocese and about our call as Christians in the world today. It’s an honor to share Advent with our Bishop and we look forward to our time together!

Sunday school, Sunday, December 11, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will continue to learn about Advent, while our Elementary classes will reflect together on the Magnificat, Mary’s song of hope.

Children’s Choir, Sunday, December 11, 11:30am: The Children’s Choir will gather for rehearsal. Kids need to be able to read English (not music), and to focus and learn with a group. Please talk to our Organist & Choir Director, Martin Ganschow, with any questions.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, December 11, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2017. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, December 14, 7:15-9pm: Thomas Merton called Julian “the greatest theologian for our time.” Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why—and learn about contemplative prayer. We meet the second Wednesday of each month. We’d love to see you.

Christmas Pageant Practice, Sunday, Dec. 18, 11:30am: All Actors are invited to a practice session for our Christmas Eve pageant. We will order pizza to sustain our team, and will go no later than 12:30pm.

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in Darkness, Thursday, December 22, 6:30pm (dinner at 5:30pm): On December 22th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda with any questions.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Saturday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Saturday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 10am (NO 8am service!)

Christmas Service Helpers Needed! If you would like to be a part of the Christmas services, we need greeters, ushers and refreshments for each of the three services. Please see the sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area or contact Pamela at office@stdunstans.com.