Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Adventures

If you look in a dictionary, Advent appears very close to adventure. 
What’s the connection between these two words?  Both of them are derived from the Latin word advenire, which means to come or to arrive.  This makes sense for Advent, since in Advent we celebrate two arrivals: Jesus’ coming to earth in Bethlehem 2000+ years ago, and his return (aka his Second Coming) to reign at the Last Judgment. But what about adventure?  Don’t we go on an adventure, rather than sitting around waiting for an adventure to come to us?  When we’re reading a tale of adventure, we do focus on what comes next.  But somehow this doesn’t explain the connection between Advent and adventure. 

Having posed etymological question, I’m not going to answer it here. If any of you armchair (or even professional) linguists want to take a shot at it, you may use the blog’s Comment capability. Instead, I want to reflect on some adventures and adventurers that the Episcopal Church celebrates every year on December 15. 

One of the hidden treasures of our church is a remarkable book Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints.  The purpose of this book is described in its Foreword:

Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints seeks to expand the worshiping community’s awareness of the communion of saints, and to give increased expression to the many and diverse ways in which Christ, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, has been present in the lives of men and women across the ages, just as Christ continues to be present in our own day.

In the pages of this book you will encounter many remarkable saints.  We celebrate two adventurer-saints today: John Horden and Robert McDonald.  Both of these men were Nineteenth Century Canadian churchmen who served as missionaries to the indigenous peoples of the far, far north.  Long before Ice Pilots or Ice Road Truckers, these men lived and worked well above the Arctic Circle.  They went to where the indigenous peoples lived, they learned their languages (and where necessary, they invented the written form of these languages), they translated the Bible and the prayer book (they were, after all, Anglicans) into these native languages, they baptized, they preached, they celebrated the Eucharist, and they served in many other ways.

For this son of the Gulf Coast, even surviving in such a hostile environment above the Arctic Circle is inconceivable.  And when Bishop Curry asks us to go out to Galilee, I’m sure that for me at least he means a warmer, more southerly part of Galilee.  Still, I’m both humbled and inspired by the stories of these Nineteenth Century saints who were called to serve in this frigid world of ice and snow, howling winds, and six-month nights.  As you read these prayers for today’s celebrations, let both the imagery of the wild, frozen north and the magnitude of what these two men did wash over you.  

Prayer for John Horden:

Creator God, whose hands hold the storehouses of the snow and the gates of the sea, and from whose Word springs forth all that is: We bless your holy Name for the intrepid witness of your missionary John Horden, who followed your call to serve the Cree and Inuit nations of the North. In all the places we travel, may we, like him, proclaim your Good News and draw all into communion with you through your Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

John Horden

Prayer for Robert McDonald (No image was available)

“Excerpt from Robert McDonald’s Takudh prayer book”

God of ice, sea and sky, you called your servant Robert McDonald and made him strong to endure all hardships for the sake of serving you in the Arctic: Send us forth as laborers into your harvest, that by patience in our duties and compassion in our dealings, many may be gathered to your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Written by Bob Moore

No comments: