Lucky me! On one Sunday, I got to celebrate Advent in the morning and an early Christmas in the evening.
At St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Claremont, the gracious rector since 2919 and a gifted pastor, the Rev. Jessie Smith, presented six candidates for confirmation, reception, or reaffirmation of baptismal vows. I was along to preach and celebrate. Firmly lodged where we belonged, in the second Sunday of Advent, we construed Isaiah’s voice crying in the wilderness, associated by gospel tradition with the John the Baptist, with the persistent whisper of our God in Christ to worry not. I met with the vestry afterward to talk about building affordable housing, expanding ministry partnerships with neighboring missions and parishes, and taking other steps designed to make sure mission and ministry expressing the broad Anglican view of our God in Christ continues to thrive in Claremont for years to come. St. Ambrose fed 500 of its neighbors at Thanksgiving and offers a shower and feeding ministry twice a week. Mark Weniger, interning at St. Ambrose as he discerns a call to ordained ministry, served ably as my chaplain.
Advent blue gave way to Christmas red tonight at St. Peter’s Church of South India, which has nested at St Thomas Episcopal Church, Hacienda Heights, CA since 2013 thanks to the hospitality of the Rev. Dr. Fennie Hsin-Fen Chang. St. Peter’s’ vicar in charge, the Rev. Dr. George Oommen, and the lay leadership team graciously invited me to offer a Christmas message at a carol service arranged for the sake of members planning to travel at the end of the month. The magnificent St. Peter’s choir, directed by Priji John Eapen, was the centerpiece, bolstered by scripture readings and children’s and youth songs, dancing, and piano performances. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Malayil Sabu Koshy Cherian, bishop of Kerala (CSI), and I have crossed paths on Zoom and at Lambeth and hope for a reunion at St. Peter’s next year. An amazing Indian dinner followed the service, allowing wonderful conversations with church members — engineers, doctors, teachers, and one member who works in retail and said the cost of renting import containers has plummeted from $20,000 to $1300 in the last few months as supply chain worries have eased. Look for retail prices to plunge in time for Christmas, he said. You heard it here first. Now back to Advent!