Category Archives: Blog

2016 Christmas at St. Mary’s

Did You Know…

Christmas is actually a season that lasts until the Epiphany, January 6th. Remember the song, The 12 Days of Christmas?

While not every day of the 12 has a major feast associated with it, there are several days you can and are welcome to celebrate Christmas at a worship service at St. Mary’s.

Mon., Dec 26: St. Stephen, Deacon, and Martyr

  • 10:30 am – 11:00 am Holy Eucharist

Tues., Dec 27: St. John, Apostle & Evangelist

  • 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm Holy Eucharist

Wed., Dec 28: The Holy Innocents

  • 6:30 am – 7:00 am: Holy Eucharist

Sun., Jan 1: Holy Name Day

  • 10:30 am – 11:30 am: Holy Eucharist

Tues., Jan 3

  • 12:00 pm – 12:15 pm: Noonday Prayer

Wed., Jan 4

  • 6:30 am – 7:00 am: Holy Eucharist

Thurs., Jan 5

  • 11:00 am – 11:45 am: Healing & Holy Eucharist

Fri., Jan 6: The Epiphany

The Epiphany follows the Twelve Days. It is the feast that commemorates the coming of the Wise Men to Jesus, following the star. The Feast of the Epiphany both closes the Christmas season and opens the Season after the Epiphany.

St. Mary’s will host a worship service of readings and hymns, and will be led by St. Mary’s Youth with St. Mary’s Men & Boys Choir in celebration of Christ’s light in the world.

  • 8:30 a.m. Holy Eucharist
  • 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm: St. Mary’s Feast of Lights

Note, an Epiphany Reception follows from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. in Paca Hall.

Sunday Reflection by Noelle Holmes

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve enjoyed waking up at early dawn to watch the sunrise. There is something magical about the appearance of everything, even the most familiar things, bathed in the light of a brand new day. Some mornings things are truly changed; wet from a night of rain or snow showers, frozen in an arctic blast or disturbed by a nocturnal creature. Other times it is like an optical illusion; the new angle of the sun’s rays as earth transitions into a new season, or the deception of a heavy fog. Most times, however, it is my perspective that makes the world transform on a daily basis.

Jesus asks, “What then did you go out to see?” in Matthew 11:2-11. This Gospel reading and Fr. Merrow’s sermon made me consider what it really means to see.

Sight is the sense for which I am probably most grateful. I’ve been able to take in so much beauty – from my mother’s face as a baby to my own children’s faces as an adult and so much more. Still, I know human eyes are easily fooled. The monster I saw in my closet as a 5-year-old was as clear as day. Countless magicians have left me in wonder during their shows. Airbrushing and Photoshop continue to cover the media landscape with a false reality. Eyewitness testimony has repeatedly been proven the least reliable evidence. ‘Seeing is believing’ is simply not often credible, especially these days.

On the [very] rare occasion my children prove me wrong, they love to demand, “See?!” This, of course, underscores understanding the error of my ways. Maybe seeing is collecting all the facts to assemble an informed comprehension then. But as we all know, facts are tricky things. Our personal biases, divergent experiences and now even ‘fake news’ constantly supply us with distortions and fabrications, not to mention the highly variable myriad of ways each one of us interprets the never-ending data.

So what is seeing? Fortunately, as children of God, we do not need to rely solely on our eyes, or the crude data put before us, or even our reasoning to truly see. As Christians, we are given a glimpse of our world through Jesus’ eyes because He came to live as one of us. We have the testimony of the Bible and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As we fast approach the celebration commemorating His birth, I will continue to seek His light which alone can transform the way I see the world on a daily basis, much like the dawn of a new day.

Have you ever been deceived by something you witnessed?

How has your view of the world been transformed by your faith?

Sunday Reflection by Kate Muth

Usually, this week’s reading from Isaiah (11: 1-10), with its promise of the holy mountain and the peaceable kingdom, is a comforting passage during Advent, as we prepare for the birth of Jesus. It is the promise of security and stability, of the glorious resting place where harmony will rule and “the wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.”

But this year, in our very troubled times, the passage is not so comforting. Mother Kate, in her sermon, said the images in the reading always fill her with a wistfulness, and this year, she feels “the most wistful of all.” Our current world is very far from the peaceable kingdom, she said.

Like Mother Kate, I am feeling wistful too. Indeed, wistful might be an understatement. Despondent doesn’t feel too far off. The vitriol from the recent election; a bitterly divided nation; a casual disregard for the truth; the disdain with which people treat those they don’t even know; the lack of compassion for those who are different from us. And this is just a partial list! All of this makes it so easy to throw up our hands in disgust and further immerse ourselves in our own insular worlds. Or worse, we might feel pulled toward the fear and anger we are witnessing and act in ways that would not be described as our finest moments.

Yes, it is easy to grow increasingly skeptical that the peaceable kingdom is even possible.

But just as pessimism can threaten to slither in and overtake us, God reminds us that the kingdom truly is at hand. At the 9:00 a.m. service, that reminder was in the form of a remarkable testament from Bruce Lyman, our newly baptized adult member of the church. Bruce spoke to the congregation about why he chose to be baptized and his new life in Christ. He reminded us all that we are not really in charge, but God is.

What a remarkable and courageous moment it was. Frankly, it is not the kind of testimony you often hear at an Episcopal Church. But it was so ideal and so needed, on this particular Sunday, in this particular moment. Bruce’s open and moving testimony was a powerful reminder that the promise of the peaceable kingdom is real, even as we try to make our way in this broken and sad world. As Mother Kate said, the glorious kingdom is not ours to build, but it is the Lord’s mighty doing. He will show us signs and graces of the kingdom, she noted.

That grace was evident in the baptism. And I have decided that I want to choose to look for more signs of the kingdom rather than to slide down into the muck of pessimism, fear, and anger. It won’t be easy and I know I will be easily distracted by news and social media updates, and I perhaps will wander into those first few layers of the muck on occasion. But I plan to return to the baptismal prayer for strength: “Give us an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”

Inclement Weather Guidelines

St. Mary’s policy regarding postponements and closures due to inclement weather is meant first and foremost to provide for the safety of parishioners, clergy, and staff.
It takes into consideration not only the conditions being reported but the time it takes to clear the premises, sidewalks, and parking lot to create a safe traveling environment.
To that end:

Methods of Communication
In cases of cancellations or delays to worship services, regularly scheduled programs, and meetings, or special events, the office will post the building’s status on the landing page of St. Mary’s Website, on Facebook and an announcement will be placed on the parish office’s voice mail system (703) 527-6800. For certain cancellations, an e-blast may be sent.

The Rector in consultation with the Facilities Manager will determine morning/daytime closings by 5:00 a.m. Sundays and 7:00 a.m. weekdays; and, by 3:00 p.m. for cancellation of evening activities. Office staff will attempt to notify the contact person for the affected meetings, activities, or events.

Click here to find the lectionary readings, should you not be able to attend an early weekday service.

Sunday Worship Services and Normal Offerings
Every effort will be made to have Sunday morning worship services. Closing or schedule delays will be posted (see above). Likewise, cancellation of Sunday evening worship and/or programs will be posted by 3:00 p.m. at the latest. Scripture readings will be posted online for the Sunday affected by the cancellation.

Be aware that programs like the Nursery and Church School may have limitations due to staffing if babysitters and teachers cannot make it.

Weekday Meetings, Rehearsals, & Outside Groups
St. Mary’s will follow the Arlington County school system inclement weather policy. 

• If school is delayed in the morning, all morning activities will be canceled
• If school is dismissed early, all evening activities will be canceled.
• If school is closed for the day, all activities will be canceled for the day.

The Parish Office will remain open whenever possible. The Rector, in consultation with the Facilities Manager, will determine if the weather conditions are too severe and/or continued clearing of the premises is necessary, requiring the office to close. A decision will be made by 7:00 a.m. Clergy and staff will be notified by email. Announcements will be posted on the Website and on the church voicemail as stated above. Ultimately, staff and clergy members will have to individually gauge the safety of their own travel situation.

All Evening Programs
Cancellation of evening programs, activities, and meetings will be posted by 3:00 p.m. at the latest.

Special Events: Funerals, Weddings, Potlucks, et al.
Events will be considered on a case by case basis and announced as stated above, as well as by email blast.

Sunday Reflection by Bethanne Patrick

“It’s nice when you see lights in the dark,” said Father Merrow in this Sunday’s sermon, as he discussed the secular tradition of bestowing houses with decorations and twinkling garlands. And we may have neighbors like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, neighbors who are more interested in decking the halls than sitting in a pew. But as Father Merrow moved on to say, we Christians must go further and share “the light that has overcome the darkness, once and for all time.”

Like most of us, I was brought up to believe that Easter Sunday was the most important day in the Church year, the day of Christ’s Resurrection. All of that is true. However, as an adult, I’ve grown to appreciate Advent. While I still know that Easter is the goal, I also know it’s a goal that could not be accomplished without the dark, quiet days of Advent.

Advent contemplation is, in part, about anticipation. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” we sing—it’s one of my favorite hymns for its somber poetry and sinuous melody. But Advent isn’t just about waiting. It’s also about preparing. “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares/And their spears into pruning hooks” reads part of Isaiah’s lesson this past Sunday. If we want to overcome darkness, we have to repurpose tools of war into those of peace.

Since we are human, we have to do this preparation, again and again, year after year.

Most of us turn our minds in Advent to freezing cookie dough, finding the gift tags, and making sure we have enough plates for a big family dinner—all of those tasks that must be done, again and again, year after year. Whether we approach those tasks with frustration or joy is up to us as individuals.

But repurposing tools of war into tools of peace means thinking about other kinds of preparations, the kind that just might make a difference for someone. What do I mean by that? I mean the kind of difference that creates change in the social-justice continuum Father Merrow emphasized in his sermon this week. For example, instead of creating elaborately themed wrapping for your own family’s gifts, you might volunteer to wrap children’s gifts at a family shelter. Rather than spending hours in your kitchen, you could serve Christmas dinner to the homeless.  And so on. (I promise not to make a service reflection into a how-to list!)

The point is, repurposing requires action. Wait, didn’t I just say Advent is the season of quiet and contemplation? Absolutely. Perhaps you will choose to spend the four weeks leading up to Christmas in stillness. As you pray, you might ask for guidance into how you can use your resources in the secular New Year. The ways to shine a light into the world are many. The most important thing is to shine a light.

Social justice will always, “once and for all time,” require sacrifice. Any light, be it an oil lamp, a string of electric twinklers, or a LED bulb, takes energy. Prayer takes energy, and so does contemplative planning. Considering how we can each spend our time is important, but Father Merrow reminds us that we must make that consideration as Christians. Our lights must shine with compassion as well as energy; our lights must be filled with love as well as holiday merriment.

Of course, substitute “lives” for “lights,” because that’s really what we’re talking about: Advent is a time for us to re-energize our lives as Christians, to remember that each week brings us closer to a symbolic rebirth, a time in which we can re-dedicate our innermost selves to God’s glory. That’s the light to show us the way to “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” That’s the light where “he may teach us his ways/And we may walk in his paths.” That’s the light to ensure “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

It’s nice to see lights in the dark. It’s much nicer to see love brought to life as we try to do as Christ taught us, in service to those less fortunate. The amazing thing is that Christ never said we can’t have both, that we can’t have our Christmas lights and do good, too. The important thing to remember in this and every Advent season is that the latter takes precedence.