Dear People of the Diocese of New Jersey,
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for the 4th Sunday of Advent
This year, the Fourth Sunday of Advent falls on December 24th. This calendar clash occurs every few years posing particular challenges to clergy and altar guild members.
Most churches will observe the ending of Advent on Sunday morning and greet with joy the birth of Christ on Sunday evening or night. Some churches will already be decorated for Christmas on Sunday morning. Others will wait until the morning service is over and then work quickly to prepare the church for Christmas proper. Sunday morning, those who attend church will hear the Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in which it is prayed that God might “find in us a mansion prepared for himself.” On Sunday night we will hear of the birth of the Christ child in a stable.
The juxtaposition of stables and mansions is striking to me. The former conveys an image of messiness, even filth; the latter luxury, wealth and sparkling cleanliness While I strive during Advent to clean my spiritual house in preparation for Christ’s coming, hoping to make myself “a mansion” fit for him, sometimes the business of life seems to take over and my spiritual house is a mess, a figurative stable. My guess is that I’m not alone. Those of us who find this to be true, however, can take comfort. Christ, by grace and love, will come and dwell among us anyway. That’s the Christmas gospel delivered to the shepherds. Remember the angelic words:
“I am bringing you news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord….” Luke 2:10 -11
These words are not merely addressed to the shepherds at the time of Jesus; they are addressed to all of us always whether we walk in darkness or in light; whether our spiritual houses are pristine mansions or filth-filled stables.
Susan joins me in wishing you and yours a blessed and joyous Christmas.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. William H. Stokes, D.D.
XII Bishop of New Jersey