The View From Bolton Street: Advent

Welcome to Advent


Welcome to a new year! This Sunday marks the first Sunday in Advent, the first week of a new liturgical year in the Church, and an opportunity to begin some new traditions, and to try out some old ones as well. 

So what happens when we start a new liturgical year? A few things: some big, some small. First of all the colors we use in the church will change, to blue for the season of Advent — a color more reflective of the more reverential and at times penitential tone of the season.  

We also shift our focus from the Gospel of Matthew to the Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the four Gospels and perhaps the Gospel that has generated the most academic interest in the last ten years — so get ready for some interesting takes on Jesus over the next year. 

We also, for a few weeks, will shift our liturgy a bit.  For the next few weeks we will use the prayers and liturgy for Rite I in the Book of Common Prayer.  These prayers, many of which are taken from the Book of Common Prayer in use in the 1800s, may sound a bit odd at first, but I encourage you to take some time to hear the prayers for the first time. Listen for what sounds different, what surprises you, and what, perhaps, makes you view the service a bit differently.  As the stage for ‘A Christmas Carol’ is set for 19th-century England, we can lean a little deeper into that by using some of the prayers and rhythms from that period as well.

BUT as is often repeated in the Gospel of Mark, “Be Not Afraid.” This is not a forever change,  but an opportunity to hear the same prayers, the same teachings, the same theology, in a new way.  

You will particularly note a return to the “traditional” Lord’s Prayer. One thing I hear MOST often from new members and visitors to Memorial is “I don’t understand the Lord’s Prayer. Why did you change it?” Perhaps it is an issue of hospitality to return for a few weeks to the traditional Lord’s Prayer as a way to offer some sense of comfort to those who are with us for the first time.  In fact, it will be interesting to see what happens in the new Prayer Book with this prayer. Will they keep the “new” version? Will they adopt the more accurate “Presbyterian version” of “debts and debtors”? Or will they only have one Lord’s Prayer as an act of unity with the rest of Christendom?

Advent is a season of “waiting,” and I am sure that some of you will be “waiting” for these changes to revert and some have been “waiting” for them for some time.  Whichever side you are on, know I am grateful for the “waiting.” I look forward to worshipping with you over the next few weeks as we prepare to welcome the birth of our Savior, and to make some room in our hearts and our homes for the risen Christ.