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Stay Awake! Living Between Two Advents

By Fr. Michael Novotny, Rector of Christ the King Birmingham, on the first Sunday of Advent 2020

We begin here in Advent at the end. We begin with the prophecies about our Lord Jesus Christ’s return, where he will come to judge the living and the dead.

We find ourselves post-resurrection, post-ascension. We find ourselves stuck between two Advents. The first Advent – which we are moving towards in Advent season – is Christmas and the Incarnation. Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning the arrival of the King – He first came in the Incarnation.

But we do not start there… We start at the end, with his second Advent: His coming again.

We live in this tension. For part of the kingdom has already come: It is already here, was established by our Lord Jesus Christ who is bringing the kingdom, but not fully. For we live between the already and the not-yet. The kingdom that is to come, a kingdom that is pointed to in Mark 13.

How are we to live between these two Advents?

Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us a two-word answer to this question:
“Stay awake!”
Or, “Be alert!”

For we have much work to do between these two Advents. We are called to stay awake, to be alert, to be moving and doing for the kingdom of God.

The Second Advent

“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Mark 13:1-2

Our Lord Jesus Christ is predicting the destruction of the Temple, in AD 70. This is the context to which he is teaching and preaching about his return, and the coming of the Son of Man.

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
Mark 13: 24-25

We see that at the end of all things that we begin with here in Advent – our Lord’s Second Coming, that this earth and heaven will pass away, and a new one will be created.

We also know from Jeremiah chapter 4, that this is also language saying that these kingdoms that exist here and now – these kingdoms and rulers and principalities – will in the end be destroyed, and the light that they feel like they have here and now will grow dim in comparison to the judgment of our Lord when he returns.

Again, how are we to live between these two Advents? We have help to stay awake.

Encouragement from Isaiah

“You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.” – Isaiah 64:5

Brothers and sisters, let us remember our Lord in the kingdom, in the very ways that we live and the works that we do here and now.

Even more beautiful as we move into Isaiah 64, we see in verse 8 this notion that was of old: That the children of God will be counted righteous in his sight, even in the midst of judgment. What a liberating fact for you and me, his grace for us.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8

What a hope that in the midst of the judgment to come, that we can stand before the Father in the person of the Son Jesus Christ as being made righteous in his sight.

Encouragement from Paul

Our epistle from 1 Corinthians allows Paul to write the words that you and I are saints before the Father, because we have been brought into fellowship with the Son.

“…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – 1 Cor. 1:2

In verse 7 he says, “So that you are not lacking in any gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are being sustained by the Holy Spirit between these two Advents!

Grace to Live in the In-Between

We are being renewed. We are the clay that the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ, is molding and transforming and making into the image of his Son. We are, with our Lord, bringing the kingdom of God here and now. We live between the already of the Incarnation and the not-yet of his return and the judgment. And we have been freed by his grace to live for him here and now. And Advent reminds us of that.

Advent is the dose of reality that we need – a time of dealing with our sin, a time of repenting, a time of movement and sanctification as we await the Incarnation and Christmas.

In the upper room, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, of Holy Communion, because he knew that the Church would be living in the in-between time until he returns, and in need of grace and mercy. He also instituted ordination and the disciples and for the Church to be built – for he knew that the Church would be needed in this in-between time.

As we approach Christmastide and the Incarnation, let us begin at the end – and remember that our Lord Jesus Christ who came is coming again to judge the living and the dead. But you and I by faith and in our baptism, will be made to stand righteous on that day. It’s a day to come: As our Lord says in Mark 13, even the Son of Man knows not the hour, only the Father. So what are we to do?

To stay awake, and to be alert!

“Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” — Mark 13: 35-37

Featured Image: ‘Last Judgment’ by Fragkias Kavertzas, ca. 1640-41

Anglicans For Life Summit Goes Virtual in January 2021!

If you have internet access, you can attend the annual Anglicans For Life Virtual Summit!

Anglicans For Life is the only global Anglican ministry dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia through ministry, education, pastoral care, and biblical advocacy and in partnership with churches in the Anglican Communion.

On January 16 and 23, AFL will livestream its annual Summit for the first time ever. Now, every Anglican with an internet connection can access the Summit’s life-changing, life-affirming training. Check out this invitation video from Deacon Georgette Forney, President of Anglicans For Life.

“Concerns about COVID-19 prompted AFL’s decision to take Summit 2021 virtual,” says Deacon Forney. “The pandemic is generating real concern about the value of life, and our message is needed now more than ever. In 2021, instead of only 125 people attending the Summit, everyone in churches coast-to-coast can be equipped to uphold the Sanctity of Life!”

SUMMIT 2021 takes place on two consecutive Saturdays in January, 11 am – 3 pm EST.
  • January 16 features keynote presentations, discussion time for watch party participants and individuals joining on their own, with conversations about next steps in real life for advocacy in your community.
  • January 23 features topical workshops, allowing people to dive into specific life issues that interest them.

Bonus teachings will be available beyond these two dates as well.

If local state COVID-19 standards allow, churches are encouraged to host small, socially-distanced groups to participate in Watch Parties – “together to be inspired to participate in mobilizing the Church for life.” This creates an opportunity to build a team of Anglicans interested in developing life ministry in your own parish and community. If your church cannot do this, encourage parishioners to participate from home.

Visit the Summit 2021 website to contact AFL to learn how to organize a watch party for your local AFL chapter, small group, youth group, or congregation.

AFL will also be taking a group to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 2021. Organizers for the March for Life are working closely with government agencies to ensure a safe and healthy march during the pandemic, with safety measures to be in place and announced closer to the date of the march. Visit the Summit 2021 website to find details on how to participate in the March for Life with other Anglicans.

Register for the event, learn more, and get promotional resources by visiting AnglicansForLife.org/Summit-2021.

Community and Coaching for Pastor Support 

Pastors and leaders want to be well and serve well, but trusted support for self-care can be difficult to find. Canon Greg Goebel is launching a new ministry called Pastor Coach to bring Christ-centered support to clergy through an online community, group and individual life-coaching, and resources that are easy to access.

Canon Greg Goebel, Priest and Certified Life Coach

This ministry will come alongside other great coaching ministries to provide Christ-centered, affordable, and easy-to-access group and individual life-coaching for deacons and priests, and pastors from other traditions. Canon Greg has also raised some scholarship funds through LeaderWorks that will provide for 50% off for Anglican Solo Pastors who choose at least four individual sessions.

His theme verse is 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

Canon Greg says, “I know the pressures of life and ministry. I know the experience of burnout, and the process of renewal. After more than two decades of ministry, I can help you find good health as your soul prospers.”

He will be using the Missional Formation Coaching model: a reflective approach to coaching designed by Winfield Bevins and Mark Dunwoody to help leaders thrive by promoting healthy rhythms that connect spiritual and missional practices. Here is an overview of the process he’ll be using:

1. Pray. Open each coaching session by welcoming the Holy Spirit to come and guide the time together. Pray “Come, Holy Spirit!”
2. Celebrate. Share some things you are thankful for in your life, family, and the church. Identify signs of God’s grace.
3. Review. Review what is going on in your life and ministry. Reflect on what has happened since the last meeting.
4. Reflect. Reflect on the areas you want to focus on during this session.
5. Resolve. Resolve what action you will take before next session.
What is Life Coaching?

Canon Greg is a priest who is also a Certified Professional Coach. He says, “A good life coach is an expert on the coaching process, and can guide you through it to a place of greater clarity, growth, and wellness. As a pastor who is also a life coach, I’m ready to come alongside and help you find a path to a well soul.”

From his Pastor Coach site: “Life Coaching is biblical, even though the term is contemporary. Barnabas is a key example of such a leader. His name means ‘Son of Encouragement’ and in the Book of Acts we see him bringing people together, encouraging new leaders with grace, and going along on journeys with charismatic leaders like Paul.

“Baptized Christians have the anointing of the Holy Spirit (I John 2:20), and the Holy Spirit imparts his gifts to each of us. But we have to ‘stir up’ those gifts, so we need encouragement and support, and companionship to discern how to do so (Hebrews 10:24). There is a place for charismatic leadership, and for church authority. But there is also a place for encouraging companions who come alongside and encourage us to stir up the gifts we have, like Barnabas did.”

Canon Greg says a Christian life coach can be that type of encourager, one who is counter-cultural to our production-oriented society.

Clergy can try out the ministry free for 30 days, to see if it’s a good fit. Perhaps it can be a Christmas gift to your deacons and priests!

For more information, and to try this out for free for 30 days, visit PastorCoach.net.

Seeds for Sowing: Thanksgivings from Rwanda

Fr. Don Hutchens and Bishop Emmanuel Ntazinda offer thanksgivings as they give us an up-to-date summary of the food distribution emergency efforts in the Kibungo Diocese, Rwanda – a crisis that many ADOTS churches and individuals have donated to for this urgent need.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On behalf of Bishop Emmanuel NTAZINDA, Bishop of the Diocese of Kibungo, Rwanda, I bring you a profound message of thanksgiving and love in Jesus Christ! The generosity of the members of the Anglican Diocese of the South has been significant in support of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Kibungo who have suffered greatly from the conditions of this Coronatide. I am providing this report as a summary of our work together since this crisis began.

The diocese of Kibungo is a cash culture totally dependent on the ability of its members to work, trade and move about the country daily. During the past few months none of this has been possible due to governmental restrictions, which began with closings of schools and churches and progressed to travel restrictions that made it impossible for Rwandans to move to and from Kigali. In Rwanda there were no stimulus checks or “PPP” monies from their government. Conditions have been difficult here but devastating for our brothers and sisters in Kibungo.

The Diocese of Kibungo’s office, which operates fully on approximately $4,000 monthly, has not received tithes from the parishes because the Christians cannot work. However, there are taxes, bills and salaries that must be paid each month without income coming in.

Our Lord has commanded us to “love others as we love ourselves”, and when we reach out in that love, He can magnify those efforts beyond our imagination. Beginning with our initial transfer in April, for the purpose of the first radio time purchase, the people of the Anglican Diocese of the South have joined with ASAC by opening their hearts and pocketbooks in prayerful support of our brothers and sisters in Rwanda.

Since our response began, corporately we have sent $26,757 to the Diocese of Kibungo to provide much needed food, support and supplies. $21,762 represents donations channeled through All Saints Anglican Church, of which 57% came from fellow members of ADOTS.

Here is a summary of the impact of this effort to date:

  • A minimum of 264 families in six of the most impacted parishes (Rwamagana, Kanazi, Gashongora, Musaza, Bukora and Gatore) received vital food and cleaning supplies.
  • Significant amounts of maize flour, beans, rice, cooking oil and soap have been purchased and distributed by the parish priests to those in need.
  • The Gospel has been proclaimed weekly on IZUBA Radio since Easter and will continue through the end of December. Many people of other denominations have expressed their appreciation to Bishop Emmanuel for this faithful proclamation of God’s word in the community. Below is a picture from their first broadcast.
  • The diocesan salaries, taxes and monthly bills have been paid.
  • The last transfer will provide much needed seeds for planting during the start of the rainy season ensuring a food supply for winter and spring.
First Gospel radio broadcast for the Diocese

God has poured out his grace and favor on what began simply as a meeting with a bishop traveling from Rwanda. But it was much more than a chance meeting. In retrospect we can see God’s hands moving through this visit by Bishop Emmanuel to ensure His faithful people were cared for during difficult and trying times.

Dear friends we are not out of the woods in this country, and neither are our brothers and sisters in Rwanda. Donations can still be made through All Saints Anglican Church and they will be directed toward continuation of caring for our brothers and sisters in the Kibungo Diocese.

On behalf of all of us at All Saints Anglican Church and fellow Christians in the Diocese of Kibungo, Rwanda, we thank you and pray for God’s blessings to be upon you!

Bishop Emmanuel sends this message to each of you:

We appreciate the support raised again, kindly extend our sincere thanks to the individual members of All Saints Anglican Church and the Anglican Diocese of the South who denied themselves and their families by contributing these funds for us, it is a sacrifice we know and we value it so much. God has been faithful to us through you in this difficult situation of C-19 where all Church activities in our Country were stopped since March to date. These funds have helped us to support the most needy people in our Diocese and solve major Diocese operations.
–Bishop Emmanuel NTAZINDA, Kibungo Diocese, Anglican Church of Rwanda

Respectfully submitted, your servant in Jesus Christ,
Fr. Don Hutchens (Rukundo)
All Saints Anglican Church, Peachtree City, GA

The latest transfer of funds was distributed on November 5, 2020, to pastors and lay leaders of the Kibungo Diocese for the purchase of bean seeds.
Kibungo Diocese leaders with funds for bean seeds.
Fr. Don asks us to consider these words of St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians:
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”
Read the previous update to the food relief efforts here.
Click here to make donations through the All Saints Peachtree City online giving page. From the “Fund” drop-down menu, choose “Kibungo Diocese,” which will designate your individual or parish gift for Kibungo Diocese food relief.
Read the original article on the urgent need for food relief here.

Advent Scriptures & Collects for 2020

Click below to view or download this printable PDF of the Advent Scriptures & Collects — for individual, family, or congregational use. Advent begins on November 29, 2020.

Click here to download and print the Advent 2020 PDF!