Church resets expectations during Advent season



Advent is the season of expectation.

Just as Mary awaited the birth of Jesus, so we’re expecting the Lord to come, said the Rev. Jefferson Otwell, of St. Luke Anglican Catholic Church.
“We remember that He came in the past. We have expectation that He will come again.”

For many, it is a joyous time, filled with hope.

But this year, members of St. Luke Anglican Catholic Church will celebrate Advent more solemnly.

They will still light the Advent wreath each Sunday. The church will be decorated in the traditional purple, customary to the season.

The difference will be delivered from the pulpit. Instead of hope, preparation, joy and peace, and lighting the Advent candles to represent those attributes, Otwell will preach on “The Four Last Things – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.”

“Yeah, I preach on hell right before Christmas,” he said. “It’s not very crowd-pleasing in some ways, but it goes over pretty well with us.”

It harkens back to medieval times, when preaching on these topics during Advent was common, he said.

It is a recognition that we will die, be judged and go to either heaven or hell, and so encourages believers to address weaknesses, repent sins and strive to more fully love God and our neighbors, Otwell said.

“We do things a bit differently here, because we do it in a really old-fashioned kind of way. That’s part of who we are (as Anglican Catholics),” he said. “By old-fashioned, I mean much more in keeping with the ancient traditions of the church.”

The topic of the first Advent Sunday will be death. Otwell said one of the reasons he became a priest is because he wanted to help reconcile people with Christ so they could be with Him in everlasting life.

It is something everyone will face, and people have faced from the beginning of time.

After death comes the judgment, and either heaven or hell. Sermons on the third and fourth Sundays of Advent will discuss what they mean.

“We will all die. That’s something we all face. That’s scary,” Otwell said. “That is a universal human experience. But there’s joy behind that.”

Heaven will be discussed on the third Sunday of Advent – also known as Gaudette Sunday or Rose Sunday. Instead of the purple robes he will wear Sundays through December, Otwell will don rose robes.

“It’s a little easing up of the expectation,” he said. “Give it some breath. We can’t be pensive for four weeks.”

The reservation and expectation practiced throughout the month are finally relieved at Christmas, which Otwell believes makes the celebration of Christ’s birth much more joyful.

The church will hold a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. It will begin at 10:45 p.m. By then, the Christmas tree will be decorated and lit and the church will be filled with candles and poinsettias.

The congregation will sing Christmas carols and the communion hymn will be Silent Night, which creates an ethereal effect, he said.

The church will be lit by candlelight that night, which will bounce off of the white walls and golden décor to create an atmosphere that is really special, he said.

“It glows. That is nice because we really don’t have that beforehand. So we hold back, and then spring forward. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year,” he said.