Advent is a season of waiting, reflection, and renewal: the hope for new light to enter our lives. It is one of the briefest seasons of the liturgical year second only to Christmas, lasting just four weeks. It is easy to miss. The busyness of Christmas shopping, arranging of travel plans, preparing for house guests (planning and preparing church services!) often overshadows the present: this fleeting season of Advent.
The annual Longest Night service, this year on December 22 at 6:00 p.m., acknowledges the shorter and darkening days of December but welcomes the promised Light of Christmas. A beautiful Advent message. On December 15, we will experience services of lessons and Advent carols. Inspired by the Anglican Advent Carol Service instituted in 1934 at King's College, Cambridge, the words of the Old Testament prophets will be followed by seasonal carols telling of the coming Light in Christ's birth.
The choir anthem offering for the 11:00 a.m. "choral" service on December 15 beautifully speaks to the heart of Advent. "Lord, Before This Fleeting Season," a poem by Mary Ann Jindra, asks God for an enlightened appreciation of the season: "to walk slowly," to give our "heart a leaning to hear carols," to "do less," "go less," and, most importantly, to "simply, peacefully, celebrate You." A lovely meditation for this time of the year and one duly needed.
The composer Libby Larsen masterfully sets Jindra's text and succeeds in embodying the tidings of Advent. I leave you with the following prayerful synopsis of this work by the composer herself....have a Blessed Adventide.
There are moments in life, private moments, when we seem to see beyond the reality of our lives -- when we are flashes of clairvoyance. At these times we know joy, peace, wisdom, hope, with a surety that sustains our belief in God. So stunning they are, that we are simply unable to recreate even a pale shadow of that eternal touch. All we can do is believe in the knowledge that such moments exist for every human being.
Director of Music/Organist
Mark Heiskanen has been Plymouth's Director of Music since September 2017. Originally from Northeast Ohio, Mark has experience and great interest in a diverse range of musical styles including jazz, rock, musical theatre, and gospel. He is thrilled to serve a congregation and staff that values diversity and inclusion in all facets of life. Read his mostly-weekly Music Minute here.
This time of year can be tough: Some of us get seasonal affective disorder as the days become shorter and shorter. * Some churches have a “Blue Christmas” service for folks who have experienced loss in the past year or so. To be sure, the holiday season can be difficult for those of us who have lived through the death of a family member or dear friend. But, rather than “going all Elvis on you,” we at Plymouth have a tradition of the Longest Night Service, which acknowledges the complex feelings of the season. Darkness can be overwhelming, and when it is, being together in a community of kindred souls in the company of God can be reassuring that the light is coming.
We all need a reminder that, as the prologue to John’s Gospel tells us, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” It is a holy thing to acknowledge that we, some of us, feel adrift at this time of year. My hope for our Longest Night Service is that it provides a spiritual mooring for those who attend.
This year we will hear our newest choral group, the Plymouth Chamber Choir, as well as handbells, harp, and flute, and we will use a litany from the Iona Community in Scotland. Jake and Jane Anne will preside at communion, and (for those who wish) I will offer individual prayers for healing and wholeness.
It is a dark time of year, but our faith in God can help us see through the darkness into the light. The light is surely coming! Please join us this Sunday, December 16, at 6:00 p.m. as we join together as witnesses both to the darkness and to the light.
* Any kind of depression is nothing to fool around with…help is available…ask one of your pastors or your physician or therapist for help.
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.