Saturday 3 December

Reveal among us the light of your presence, that we may behold your power and glory.


Isaiah 30.19-26 | Psalm 147.1-6 | Matthew 9.35-10.8 |

A Villanelle for Advent
Catherine Brown Tkacz

Silent bird upon the water, nest
Far distant and companions gone, confide
All longing to this waiting time, and rest.

Wide-winged in flight, you bent down from the West,
From grey sky to grey lakeswell, now to bide,
Silent. Bird upon the water, nest

Upon the voiceless shallow wave; lest
Too weary, starved, you die, having denied
All longing in this waiting time, and rest.

So gently lay upon the lake your breast
And couch your weary wings along your side,
Silent bird upon the water. Nest

You have no more, for at the soul's behest
You came here; now teach your heart to guide
All longing to this waiting time, and rest.

When the Word and song are born, you will be blest,
With the star's sheen upon the wave to glide.
Silent bird upon the water, nest
All longing in this waiting time, and rest.
—Christianity and Literature, 50.3 Spr 2001, p. 561


It's around now that Advent calendars start appearing—open a door every day and there's a new scene to see; and usually these days a new chocolate to eat! It's one of the few things that still survive from the traditional run-up to Christmas, the old four-week period of preparation. And it's interesting that it's tied up with this thing about opening doors, being surprised.

I think that one of the really important things about this pre-Christmas period should be getting in touch again with excitement and surprise. Christmas ought to be about surprises, welcome surprises. It's a shame if it becomes—as it often does—a bit of a grim duty, all the shopping to do and the cards to write and so on. But Advent calendars give us a kind of nudge to say 'Look: this world is more than you thought. Under the surface, there can be wonderful things, new things to find out about yourself and each other and the whole world you live in'.

We're most alive when we're discovering new and astonishing things about each other—it's what happens when people fall in love, of course, which is why love is for most of us the thing that more than anything else makes us feel alive. And for Christians this Advent period of getting ready for Christmas is getting ready to discover new things about God—remembering the surprise that everybody felt at the first Christmas. God showed his love in a new way with the birth of Jesus, and people were amazed at this—and started falling in love with God.

It's worth trying, in the run-up to Christmas, to ask if we really want to discover new things—or whether we're just in a rut, trapped by duty, weighed down by boredom. Because if we really are ready for a surprise, God's ready to tell us at Christmas that there's more to him than we thought—and more to us and our neighbours as well.
—Rowan Williams, Christmas Message, Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2, 1 December 2010.


You are the Father who welcomes home
The prodigal who has wandered far
You are the Father who prepares a meal
When others would simply ignore
You are the Father whose love extends
Beyond our thoughts or minds
You are the Father who knows our hearts
And yet loves us as we are
You are the Father whose word we trust
In whose presence we have no fear
You are the Father whose tender touch
Makes a wounded spirit whole
You are the Father whose only Son
Was born that he might die
You are the Father whose gracious love
We celebrate this day. Amen

Eric Gill, Madonna & Child in Vesica, 1918, The Tate

William Byrd, Vigilante, five-part motet, with all parts sung by Simon Lo Castro

Vigilate, nescitis enim quando dominus domus veniat:
sero, an media nocte, an gallicantu, an mane.
Vigilate ergo, ne cum venerit repente,
inveniat vos dormientes.
Quod autem dico vobis, omnibus dico: vigilate.
Watch, for you know not at what hour
the master of the house will come …
watch therefore,
lest coming suddenly, he finds you sleeping.



3 December is the UN International Day of People with Disability, celebrating and acknowledge their contributions, skills and achievements.

May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting. Amen.

Prayers used in this 2016 Advent Calendar are © John Birch, 2016, at and used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence.
St Philip's Anglican Church, corner Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602