Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Rector's Messages

Message Archive


Advent and Christmas 2006


"Joseph went from Nazareth to the city of David called Bethlehem". --Luke 2:4 (NRSV)


Describing a piece of music to someone who has not yet heard it is difficult. This past several weeks I've been listening to an instrumental piece entitled On The Way to Bethlehem, from a collection entitled Pilgrim Songs. I wish I could explain more clearly how much of a strong sense of the season this music elicits. It captures the imagination in a way that familiar holiday music does not. It does not whisk you quickly to the holiday destination. On The Way to Bethlehem is a long piece with both variety and repetition. The music has a distinct Near Eastern flavor. The arrangement and rhythm are evocative of the plodding nature of a journey. It calls to mind long and laborious days walking, lumbering animals in caravan, the purposeful steps of a pilgrimage. Moving forward under a hot sun is slow going. I wonder about the many nights under a cold and starry sky. Devotion and prayer were surely part of the trek. There is a feeling of hopefulness in the music, but predictability is not so much present. I listen and I read. The music seems to give nuance and vitality to the familiar verses from Luke's Gospel. " A decree went out the whole world should be registered all went to their own towns Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary who was expecting a child while they were there [At last!] she gave birth ... there was no place for them in the inn." The music and the story draw out something of the travel tension in the church's celebration of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. The Christ is coming to us even as we are coming to worship him.


Worship is one of the necessary treasurers for the journey. Worship reminds us that we travel in the company of the Divine. It places our journey before the wide horizon of God's purposes for us. We go as a worshipping people. Justice, love, peace, and hope grow within us on the way. Worship strengthens the faith and resolve of a pilgrim people.


The journey through Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany is highlighted by acts of worship. We praise God in unison with Mary. We acclaim God in company with Anna, Simeon and Zachariah. We adore Christ with the shepherds. We sing praises in concert with the angels. Together with the Magi we too come to worship the newborn king. Worship, like the pilgrimage of which it is a part, requires the risk of faith. To travel with God is to open one's self to the possibility of change and transformation. God's love and grace are poured out in worship. Eyes are opened to see Christ in the lives of those we meet along the way. We become more caring of all God's children. We are called to be less accepting of the injustice and suffering that is often the lot of both friend and stranger. In the end, the journey shapes and strengthens and disciplines us. The road to Bethlehem is eventually the road to peace on earth and favor with God. So too is the road traveled by today's people of faith. Like new music to fresh ears, it is a road that must be experienced to be fully understood.


The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis     Advent 2006