Because Christmas Day falls on Tuesday of this week, the questions for this week are for the Gospel reading for the Christmas Eve Service. Mother Tish’s sermon from the 10 p.m. service is helpful background for these questions.
O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Collect for Christmas Eve
- Because this text is so familiar to us (Charlie Brown’s Christmas, anyone?), it can be difficult to hear it freshly. One way of making the text strange again is to meditate upon it. As a group, do a guided meditation upon this text. Begin in silence. Ask everyone to listen for a word or expression that stands out to them as the text is read. Then read the text slowly. Be silent for moment again, and then read the text a second time, and invite the Lord to open everyone to intuitions, thoughts, images, and sensations related to the word or phrase that he gave to each person. After a period of silence, read the text a final time, and ask the Lord to interpret the meaning of the expression and the intuitions and sensations that he gave to each person. Invite anyone who experienced anything during this process to share.
- During the Roman occupation of Judea, the Roman emperors began to refer to themselves as the ‘son of God’ and their reign as a ‘gospel’ or ‘good news’ and ‘salvation’. The hope of the early Christians in the gospel of the Lord was thus a counter-imperial hope, the hope of a true, heavenly Lord bringing true ‘good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ (v. 10). If you were to put this ‘gospel’ or good news of Jesus in your own words, what would you say?
- In v. 19, it says that Mary, after the annunciation, ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’. This rumination, this meditation upon the gift that she has received in Christ is what each of us is called to as disciples of Jesus. How do you practice treasuring and pondering the truths of Christ? How would you like to grow in treasuring and pondering Christ in 2019?
Malachi 3:1-5; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
Preparing the way
- John the Baptist came to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” St. Luke reminds us of the words of Isaiah about John that foretold his message of repentance and the call to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Luke 3:4) On Sunday, Canon Jonathan outlined three ways that Sunday’s Scriptures call us to prepare for the coming again of Jesus. The first was, Repent.
- What do you understand repentance to be about?
- Can you share a time when you were convicted of the need to repent?
- The image St. Luke quotes from Isaiah concerning St. John’s proclamation of repentance is of making rough spaces smooth (Luke 3:5) and the prophet Malachi speaks of God being like a refiner’s fire (Mal. 3:2). On Sunday, Jonathan said, “We would do well not to get in the way of God’s refining work.”
- How do you think we are tempted to get in the way of what God is doing in our lives?
- Have you experienced the “refiner’s fire” in your life?
- The second way Sunday’s Scriptures call us to prepare for Christ’s coming again is through Growing in love. Read the prayer Paul prays in Philippians 1:9.
- Can you think of an example of someone you have encountered who has exhibited this kind of overflowing love?
- What can we do so that our hearts overflow with love?
- The third way Sunday’s Scriptures call us to prepare for Christ’s coming again is through Joy (Phil 1:3). St. Paul goes on to say, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ.” (1:6)
- What brings you joy as you think about your brothers and sisters in Christ at Ascension?
- Do you pray for the other members of your Community Group, and if so, share some of the ways that you do that?
All are invited to a Christmas Dinner Party with internationals on Wednesday, December 19th at 6pm in the Parish Hall. If you would like to come or help, please contact Luann at PittsburghEnglish4U@gmail.com. Plan on bringing a dish for yourself and a few others! All welcome!!
Join us Thursday, December 13th from 12:30 – 2:30pm. There will be a delicious catered lunch prepared by Denise Bozich, a wonderful presentation by John Bailey and we will end with carol singing led by Peg Anderson!
We thought we knew the Christmas story until Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey turned our ideas inside out. From his experience in the Middle East, Dr. Bailey took the Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2, identified some traditionally held myths surrounding the story, and brought some new cultural insights into our celebration of God’s greatest gift to us. As he once said to his cousin John Bailey, “there was no inn.” What? No Inn? John will bring Kenneth’s teaching to the senior’s group– so we can gain a richer understanding of what truly happened. Don’t miss this exciting chapter in the birth of our Lord!
RSVP to Ann Tefft at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parking restrictions will be lifted for people to park on the streets, and the Neville Street lot will be reserved for seniors. We will meet in the Hunt Rooms.
Family Christmas Eve Service at 6:30pm
All are invited to this warm service that is designed with children in mind. We will celebrate the nativity of Jesus with a children’s tableau and sing the great carols of Christmas. Childcare for children aged PreK and under will be provided. Children aged 5 (Kindergarten) and older are with us for the service. Please remember to bring your bells to this service! It is a great joy to sing the great hymns of Christmas with congregational bells ringing out!
Festival Christmas Eve Eucharist at 10pm
Our late Christmas Eve service will feature a Festival Procession, incense, candles and the great music of the season in celebration of the birth of the Christ child. Childcare is not provided. Please remember to bring bells to this service also!
Christmas Day Eucharist at 10am
The lessons are different from Christmas Eve so that those who wish to make this their second service of Christmas may join those who prefer this quiet one to the festival celebrations on Christmas Eve. Child care is not provided.