Saint James Anglican Church

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


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Advent and Christmas 2008

 

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all in whom he delights.”

(--Luke 2:14 Revised New English Bible)

 

As I drove into the church parking lot I encountered a gentleman equipped with a camera and tripod. He appeared to be taking pictures of the rectory and church hall. I ventured over to ask him what he was doing. “That's Venus and Jupiter”, he said. Gesturing to the toward the sky, he continued with an unmistakable enthusiasm, “I'm taking pictures of Venus and Jupiter.” Just minutes earlier, on the drive home, a radio announcer was describing the lovely sunset in the western sky. The light from the sun, now below the horizon, gave the first sky of the evening a wonderful blue tint. Venus and Jupiter were on the rise alongside the moon. It was a perfect Advent evening.

 

Canadian songwriter Neil Young sings about “blue blue windows behind the stars”. Vincent van Gogh, in his most famous painting “Starry Night”, depicts a village nestled around a church, cradled by the earth, canopied by the stars all embraced by the sky. The increasing telescopic exploration of space, with vivid pictures of stars and galaxies has broadened our sense of place and context. The mid twentieth century picture of small blue planet Earth is set against a background of a vast and beautiful cosmic order. Such images provide a sense of context that is profoundly spiritual. We are asked to ponder “galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth our island home, by your will they were created and have their being.” ( Prayer Four, The Holy Eucharist).

 

The sky at his time of year is a naturally occurring icon. The imagery evokes the awe and wonder of a chain of mysteries. The earth is joined to the heavens. Heaven and Earth are set within the context of God's creative care. St. Mary the Virgin carries the son of God in her womb. The Divine child is cradled in the starkness of the stable. God's love is incarnate in the midst of his people. A sense of completeness marks each “mystery within a mystery”. The result is a sense a peace brought closer by the nearness of God. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all in whom he delights.”

 

That December evening, as I left my car and headed into the house, I did my own survey of Jupiter and Venus in the early night blue sky. The day had been filled with news about economic uncertainty, political crisis, and a variety of cares and concerns. The advent sky, if just for a few moments, dwarfed these concerns. Even if just briefly the perspective shifted to something more peaceful, more hopeful, more heavenly. I had a suspicion the photographer and the radio announcer may have had a similar sense. It seemed to me a perfect metaphor for Advent and the birth of the Prince of Peace.

 

“Eternal God, this holy night is radiant with the brilliance of your one true light. As we have known the revelation of that light on earth, bring us to see the splendor of your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord”. --A Christmas Prayer at Midnight ( Book of Alternative Services p. 273)

 

The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis, Advent and Christmas 2008