Magnificat: December 25, 2019 (Christmas Day)

“So [the shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:16-19

“Oh, but you didn’t have to!” How many times has a gift I gave been greeted by those words! And my standard reply is not really very standard: “If I had to it wouldn’t have been a gift.” I know I miss the point. They mean to express unexpected joy and gratitude. (I’m hiding my dumb luck at having stumbled on just the right gift.) In another sense, I don’t miss the point. Gifts are given freely or not at all.

We’ve been reading all Advent long about two parallel songs of women whose sentiment toward God is similar. Hannah, childless until she conceives Samuel, the last and greatest of the judges of the Old Testament, bursts forth in song at the gift of what didn’t have to be. Mary, chosen by God to be the Mother of God, when it could have been most anyone else, bursts into song. The fact of the gift (rather than nothing) and the fittingness of the gift (when it could have been otherwise) give rise to unexpected joy and gratitude.

And perhaps it goes deeper still. There is wonder; wonder at a gift freely given, and therefore truly a gift, and exactly fitting, for it was precisely what we most needed. I wonder when I think that God actually takes the cosmic risk of giving people the freedom to reject their own Source so that any relationship between them and the Source could be freely given and received. If I were more capable, a song would be fitting. And there is more. I wonder that God would hide divinity in a human face so we would understand. I wonder that God would hide in our faces as we face one another.

It just didn’t have to be that way—and yet it is.

(As a prayer, imagine yourself in a place that inspires wonder and ponder the gift God didn’t have to give.)
-Fr. Paul Moore

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As a Christmas bonus to y’all, we have a playlist of Christmas music for you here.

Magnificat: December 24, 2019

“He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” – Luke 1:54-55

The Bible is the book that tells the story of God’s faithfulness and mercy to His people who did not always follow God as they were instructed. We all remember the story of God coming to Abraham and telling him that he would have a son when his wife Sarah was barren.

“I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”
-Genesis 17:7

We remember the stories of the crossing of the Red Sea, the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for forty years where they whined about the manna, worshipped the golden calf and wanted to go back to Egypt because they remembered “the good old days”. But God was faithful and merciful and kept the covenant He had made with Abraham and his descendants despite the unfaithfulness of the Israelites.
This season of Advent, we focus on God’s gift of His Son Jesus who was born in a manager and became man to fulfill God’s plan. He died for us so that we can have both an abundant and eternal life.

As Mary magnifies the Lord in this passage for fulfilling his promises, so I truly feel overwhelmed when I think how God has worked in my life. Like the Israelites, I have wandered off, done my own thing, but He has always been faithful and forgiving to me. Many a time I have reached out to God when life has been unbearable AND every time, He has provided a way out. My desire is to live a life that magnifies God in everything I do, making a difference in my community.

Dear Lord, help me to magnify your Holy Name in everything I do. Thank you for your faithfulness and mercy, shown to me every day. Amen.
-Marilyn Allen

Magnificat: December 23, 2019

…he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. – Luke 1:53

One look at my calendar for the next month and it’s any wonder I’ll have time to sleep: assorted birthday and holiday parties, medical appointments, watching twin granddaughters for four days, multiple meetings, caring for my elderly mother, church responsibilities, and a looming deadline on my new manuscript. Oh, yeah, and Christmas. It seems more like the hurry season than the quiet, spirit-filled waiting season of Advent.

This passage from Luke seems to be more about our spiritual lives than anything having to do with physical hunger or riches. I don’t know about you, but when I enter a sanctuary—like I did this fall, visiting no less than fifty Italian churches and cathedrals and basilicas—I have an immediate and complete sense of calm, of wonder, of awe. It is as if an invisible cloud envelops me and my sense of time is dulled. I am in the very presence of the Lord, open to His leading (this phenomenon can also happen at the seashore or in the deep woods, high atop a mountain or, yes, even wandering in the desert. It is the feeling of being on holy ground).

When I am fully aware of being in God’s presence, I am open and ready for all the blessings He bestows. He fills me with so many “good things,” too many to count. But if I’m too busy to acknowledge His presence, I come up empty, every time.

I will try to remember my own advice the next time I’m in the aisles at Safeway or waiting at a red light on Burlington Boulevard. Every moment of every day we are in God’s presence, and He meets us where we are, ready to fill souls hungry for His Word and His Love. It is when we ignore Him that we are like the rich man sent empty away. It is up to us to be open to the Lord’s abundant grace. He is always there.

Thank you for being present in our lives, even when we seem too busy to realize it. Amen.
-Ashley Sweeney

Magnificat: December 22, 2019

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly… – Luke 1:52

One of the blessings of my work with the TRIO program is getting to know some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Many of my students speak two or more languages with varying levels of fluency, and they have accomplished so much more in their lifetimes than I ever will. Many came to the US as children and had to navigate the educational system in a language that was unfamiliar to them. Others had to leave school to work and support their families, so some of them are getting their GED or high school diplomas in their fourth decade of life. The difficulty of this is not lost on me, so I make it a habit to keep star stickers in my bullet journal to hand out to reinforce their successes in tutoring. If they do well on a test, they get a high-five from me and I take them into my boss’s office to brag about them to her. One student in particular just got recruited for the Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management program at Skagit, a new two-year degree program for students who already have an Associate degree, and I could not be prouder of her than I am right now.

I compare them to those in leadership positions and privileged circumstances, and it angers me that they are considered successful in our upside-down world. They were sent to the best schools that money could buy, and many of them inherited successful companies from their parents. Their successes have largely been at the hands of other people, and some have engaged in dishonest and predatory business practices to succeed, resulting in lawsuits, fines, and criminal charges.

However, everything they have could be taken away from them at any time. They have no foundation to stand upon because all of their gains are dependent on the work of others. My students, on the other hand, will prosper because they have put in the work necessary to build a solid foundation. They know what it is to work for one’s living, and they have shown that they can overcome adversity. They will prosper in life in ways that benefit the kingdom of God.

God, thank you for the example of those who have faced true adversity and overcome it. Help us to learn from their example. Bless their work for your kingdom and help us to be good co-workers for them. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Magnificat: December 21, 2019

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. – Luke 1:51

When I read this passage, I immediately think of our society today. I picture God’s mighty arm sweeping away all of the proud, rich and powerful, leaving room for those who have little or nothing to be restored to health and well-being. God will be faithful in doing this, but we must take part in it. It is good to pray for God’s help, but we must also act. As we say in our Mission Statement, “…we are recipients of and participants in that healing and restoration.” What are we, as individuals and as a community, doing to bring this about?

Lord, help us to be part of making your world a good place for all to live to your glory. Amen.
-Penny Worrell

Magnificat: December 20, 2019

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. – Luke 1:50

It seems to me that mercy is at the heart of the Gospel. In mercy, the shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep. In mercy, the father scans the horizon, looking for the return of his long-lost runaway child. In mercy, Jesus heals men and women of their various ills. In mercy, Jesus shares truth with a Samaritan woman at the well. In mercy, Jesus sets a child on his very own lap and suggests we be more like that child than like ourselves! Scandalous, eh?

As I survey the scriptures ever so briefly, reading and hearing the many stories of Jesus and his mercy, I find myself bewildered at the complete lack of charity amongst so many of them that (or those who) claim to follow him.

It seems to me that Advent invites us to ponder the mystery of mercy. God is not merciful because we deserve it; I’m not even sure we need mercy, most of the time. We’re generally fairly decent to one another; faithful in church, home, work, and school. We’re honest in our dealings with one another; keep our acid tongues in check; grin and bear life as best we can. So why is God merciful?

Because it is God’s nature to extend mercy to all those who are perfectly imperfect. It is the mercy of God that allows us to “fear” God. Not with knee-shaking fear, but humble adoration. And being the recipients of God’s loving mercy, we take time to extend a merciful hand to the world around us, for our world, too, is desperate to be held in the strong, loving, and merciful arms of God.

God, have mercy on us, sinners of your own redeeming. Forgive us our shortcomings during this season of cold and dark days and help us to see your mercy in action during this Advent season, for that is the mercy we and this world of yours so desperately need! Amen.
-Keith Axberg

Weekly Reflection and News: December 19, 2019

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
-Matthew 1:18-25

I guess we just couldn’t wait any longer. Christmas isn’t until Tuesday of next week but this Sunday is Gospel lesson is Matthew’s account. We normally associate the Christmas story with Luke’s account with angels and shepherds but this is a different approach, a different lens through which to see it. It is more focused on prophecy and it begins Matthew’s striking parallels between Moses and Jesus. In the Spanish version used commonly around here, this passage begins with the phrase “the origin of Jesus Christ“ which I find striking. What is the origin of anything? We might imagine that the origin of something creative is in the creative act, But such is just not the case. Every creative act takes place in a context built up over time. Jesus is indeed unique in human history, but he comes in a context built up over time. That context set us up to understand the event.

In fact, the context goes right back to the beginning. God creates the world, God creates humanity, humanity does OK for a little bit and then messes up, and God makes plans to re-create. The Christian understanding of the birth of Christ is the big beginning of that re-creation. So, just as Moses marks the beginning of the Jewish people, the coming of Jesus Marks the beginning of the Christian people. This is of concern to Matthew and the community for whom he writes because they were Jewish Christians under persecution. It helps him understand that the Jewish past they carry with them is not lost in Christ.
And neither is ours. We come to Christmas out of a context. That context is important, for in it we see that God has been getting closer to us over many years. What we celebrate it Christmas is the focus of that great advance, The actual arrival of the one who is God in human flesh. If Jesus is God in human flesh, in Jesus all human contacts are caught up in God, even yours and mine.

The name “Emmanuel” means God with us, but it also means “we with God”.

The Rev. Paul Moore
Priest at St. Paul’s (email)

Advent at the Border

Jose Rodriguez mural Praying at a section of the wall

Left: A mural of 16-year-old José Rodríguez memorializes him in Nogales, Mexico.
Right: A person praying along a section of the border wall cuts a line between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico.

The Rev. Dr. Paul Moore attended the 2nd Annual Border Ministries Summit in Arizona two weeks ago. This trip was the inspiration for the “Advent at the Border” art display in our Narthex. Grab hold of Paul to hear more about his experience, and you can read more about the conference and the complex border issues here.

The art series displays four themes of Advent meditations for discussion. Each Bible verse and picture brings together the propers for the day and a story or theme from the Border Summit Conference in Arizona this past November. An underlying theme is sanctuary, broken down into:

  • Pilgrimage
  • Encountering the Foreigner
  • Refuge
  • Welcome

One for each of the Sundays in Advent…

Some questions to ponder:
Where and when do you feel you need refuge?
Where do you go?
To whom do you need to offer refuge in your life, and how can you do so?

Ways to get involved:

  • Donations to Deacon Babnew’s work can be made at: their website or their Amazon Wishlist.
  • Supplies for the young man in sanctuary at the Cathedral in Seattle.
  • Volunteering at a homeless shelter.
  • For more information, you can speak with The Rev. Dr. Paul Moore at (254) 368-6475 or email him.

    Advent Announcement
    Updated Saint Paul’s Directory for 2019!
    Hot off the press! Pick up a copy of the update from the counter in the Narthex.

    Magnificat: 2019 Advent Devotional Booklet
    St. Paul’s 2019 Advent Devotional series, Magnificat, is now available for your daily inspiration. In addition to reading the daily devotionals lovingly prepared by our very own congregation members, you can also view them on the St. Paul’s Facebook page. If you would like Magnificat to be delivered daily to your email inbox, you can sign-up link for the email HERE or email Jen at jennifer.e.mccabe@gmail.com. You can also download (and print) a PDF version of the entire devotional series, including a large print version, by clicking on the links: PDF version or Large print PDF version.

    Help Deck the Halls at St. Paul’s for Christmas!
    Memorial and Thanksgiving designations are being accepted from all who wish to remember loved ones or share thanksgivings in the bulletin for the Christmas services. The associated donations will be used to help offset the cost of flowers and decorations in the church during Advent and Christmas. Suggested donation $25.00, but all amounts will be gratefully accepted. Envelopes are available on the table in the Narthex and can be turned into the Church Office or into a collection plate. Designations turned in by Monday Morning, December 23, will be included in the Christmas bulletin.

    Emergency Preparedness
    St. Paul’s Emergency Preparedness Team has some information on what you can do and who you can call in the event of a power outage at your home. Volunteers are willing to drive and pick up anyone who would otherwise be able to due to poor conditions or night driving. Contact Sandy McDougall (alecsandym@gmail.com or 360-630-9405) for more information.

    POWER OUTAGE – WARM HOMES
    Call first! All the volunteers will pick you up as needed.
    Alec & Sandy McDougall: (360)424-6510 or (360)630-9405 at 16387 Calhoun Rd. – Beds, 2 Queen & 2 – 4” pads.
    Andy & Bonnie Schuh: (949)735-9895 or (949)735-6289 at 405 S. 9th street – Beds 1 T & 1 D.
    Margie Lauer: (425)248-9336 – 23840 Nookachamp Hills Dr. – Bed 1 Q.
    Barbara Cheyney: (360)391-3899 – 2521 Stonebridge Way – Beds 2 T.
    You may call the McDougall’s 24/7.

    Safe Food without Electricity:
    A full refrigerator will maintain safe temperatures for up to 6 hours. A full freezer will maintain safe temperatures for 2 days, and a half full one for 1 day. Frozen foods that are still somewhat frozen are still safe. If in doubt, throw it out. The most potentially hazardous foods are meat, dairy products, eggs, soft cheeses, cooked, beans, potatoes, pasta, custards and puddings. Some food may not be hazardous but the quality may be affected; salad dressings, mayonnaise, produce, hard cheeses etc. Foods that are safe: ketchup, mustard, relishes, jams, peanut butter, barbecue sauces, bottled beverages etc.

    Gimme Shelter – A Tasty, Musical, Friend & Fund Raiser
    January 4, 2020 • 4:00PM – 10:00PM at Lincoln Theater, 712 S 1st St, Mt Vernon, WA. Come mingle and enjoy a night of musical fun, tasty treats & local art. To support our neighbors on our southern border*.
    *Proceeds To Benefit: Madre Assunta Shelter for Women and Children & Al Otro Lado Legal Services in Tijuana Mexico.

    Choir – TODAY!
    The next choir practice is Thursday, November 14, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary.

    Resurrección Posadas
    A great way to prepare for Christmas is through traditional Christmas Posadas o Novenas Navideñas. This series of celebrations has a duration of 9 days, beginning on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve. It is to remind us of the trajectory that Mary and Joseph followed to find someone to give them shelter for the Messiah to be born. Come celebrate with Resurrección and click on this link for the current schedule or call Baudelina (360) 540-9917 for more questions.

    December 22, 2019
    8:00 a.m. Morning Prayer
    Officiant: Pat Kostanich

    9:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist
    Presider: The Reverend Paul Moore
    Music Director: Pam Pryor
    E.M.: Penny Worrell
    E.V.: Bob Johnson
    Greeters: Bob & Sharon Johnson
    Lectors: Dan & Elizabeth Niven
    *Coffee Hour: The Schuh Family
    Counters: Sharon Johnson and Judy Thompson
    Sound: Ben Worrell
    Flowers: Ashley Sweeney

    E.M. is Eucharistic Minister.
    E.V. is Eucharistic Visitor.
    * Sign-up sheet is in the Parish Hall.