All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Words of Hope for the First Sunday of Advent

The Rev. Fran Holliday
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago
Sunday December 1, 2013
Advent 1 Year A

Every year as the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend comes to a close, I begin to focus my attention on Christmas. I start out by playing Christmas music and gradually add in a Christmas movie here or there. Just last night I was watching “Miracle on 34th Street.” The 1947 original version with Natalie Wood of course!

At some point over the weekend I pull out my personal Advent wreath, which I light daily. I love to watch the candles burn down as they mark time, the time between now and when we celebrate the birth of Christ. I love the anticipation and all of the build up leading up to Christmas.

And then just as I am comfortably nestled down into my celebration BAM it happens every year. The gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent catches me off guard once again. It’s as if someone threw a big bucket of cold water on my celebration. The gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent is always apocalyptic in nature, anticipating the second coming of Christ, and the final judgment.

On the first Sunday of Advent we never hear the voice of John the Baptist proclaiming the Messiah’s first coming nor do we hear the voice of the Angel Gabriel proclaiming the Incarnation to Mary. Rather the gospel for the First Sunday of Advent is always about the end times regardless of the lectionary cycle of readings we are using.

Many of us find these readings like the one we just heard from the Gospel of Matthew to be jarring, disruptive and, disconnected from our journey toward Christmas. There are generally two ways that Christians deal with These readings and I must say that neither one seems optimal. On the one hand people cite this very gospel that we read along with other readings from the Old and New Testament, as proof of the “rapture”.

The rapture is a fundamentalist concept that God will come at an unknown time and bodily lift up God’s elect, while the rest of us get left behind only to have God’s wrath and judgment inflicted upon us. “About that day and hour no one knows… Then two will be in the field; one will be taken up and one will be left. Two women will be grinding wheat together; One will be taken up and one will be left.”

This concept of the rapture was made popular in the 1970’s book by Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth and more recently in the Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. You may recall that at the height of the conversation about the rapture fundamentalists created a bumper sticker which read: “When the Rapture comes this car will be driverless”. This led to a humorous response which, also appeared On a bumper sticker, “ When the rapture comes may I have your car?”

Another common response to these end times readings is that many Christians just ignore them. When I was preparing to preach today I called some of my colleagues to see where they may be going with these readings and the refrain was always the same, “Skip the gospel preach on Isaiah” “Ignore the end time reading”.

The concept of the rapture with all of its dire predictions about when and how the world will end is ridiculous. On the other hand I think if we ignore or shy away from the apocalyptic gospel readings we run the risk of missing the hope and essence of Advent that is buried within them.

Advent is a season that calls us like no other to live into a paradox. Christ has already come into the world, We are already living with the hope and reality of the Incarnation. “Emmanuel” God with us.” In Advent we are preparing for something that has already occurred. And yet Advent also claims that Christ will come again to restore all creation in what St. Paul calls “The fullness of Time”

So we are also preparing for something that has not yet come to fruition. We are awaiting the second coming of Christ, But we need not do so in fear or with anxiety, Because Christ himself is already present and working to restore all creation even as we speak. Advent invites us to journey with the God Who is already present, to bare witness to the new thing that God is always doing to restore us and the world.

This is the hope that lies deep within the Gospel from Matthew that we heard this morning, when viewed against the backdrop of Advent. It is true that the reading is disruptive. Look again “Two will be in the field; one will be taken, one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. The reading here does not place any judgment On those in the field or those grinding the meal. These people are simply going about their everyday usual activity and then God interrupts that activity.

God breaks into the ordinary moments of their lives to do a new thing. God is already working to restore us to all that we can become to interrupt our life as we know it- to make us new. This is the hope and promise of these readings when placed in the context of our Advent celebration. God is always interrupting us Working to get our attention Feverishly wanting us to become more - But we often don’t notice, Yes, sometimes it comes with a bang But often God works in quiet less obtrusive ways And we need to still ourselves to perceive it.

Advent more than any other time is a time for stillness A time as the scriptures direct us… To keep awake, be alert, for we do not know the day or the hour when God will act and we could miss it. Advent is a time to pay attention and to anticipate God’s activity in our lives. In Advent we are called to see the God who is just over the horizon preparing to do a new thing in the midst of our everyday routines.

On November 17th a tornado swept through the towns of Diamond and Coal City Illinois. Some would say that this was the work of God, or even God’s judgment. The God of Advent however is not a God who whimsically controls the weather to prove a point, But rather the God of Advent is one who is already present in the world and is working to make all things new.

Jason and Mari Eaton have experienced this new life. They had just brought their new baby Ariana home the day before the storm. When the storm hit they were fortunately with relatives, however their small house was gone. The baby’s room, which was lovingly decorated and filled with new gifts and baby items, was trashed and leveled. As Jason picked through the debris he found very little that was salvageable. But then things took a positive turn. The pain and sorrow that was overshadowing them which could have easily consumed them, was interrupted by the love and generosity of strangers.

Hundreds of volunteers came into the area and provided food, support and help with the clean up. Strangers spent hundreds of dollars on new baby items for Ariana, who picked up the name “Tornado Baby. Somebody said, “Can I take a picture of Tornado Baby, She is the light in all the darkness.” God’s presence in the world through the outpouring of kindness and generosity in this situation has changed everything. It has interrupted what could have been a situation fraught with despair.

The tornado baby has become a symbol of something new – of hope. A light in all the darkness. God is always working to create a new thing in us- But we must take the time to notice it, and to acknowledge it so that we can claim it and embrace it. This advent I invite you to contemplate the new thing that God is about to do in your life and in the world around us.

Keep alert, stay awake, pay attention.



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Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    


How much longer will the killing continue? 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
    All my best,


    Annual Bake Auction

    Annual Bake Auction

    Dear Friends,
    For nineteen years, All Saints' has been creating an Africa Bake Auction that changes people's lives. Last year we raised over $26,000 by buying cakes that we baked! With the money raised during the auction between our 9am and 11am worship services, our young people chose to fund:
  • wells and clean water for people in South Sudan
  • a women's collective tea store, creating a place for women entrepeneurs
  • scholarships for Sudanese refugees in Uganda
  • financial aid for two scholars working on LGBT issues in Africa
  • health care for women, children, and men in the Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • In terms of what it buys in South Sudan, our money is multiplied by a factor of ten. And now, more than ever, our assistance is needed. What you do--what we give--helps people so very much.
    So come with your debit cards, bring your friends, bake some goodies, and get ready to make an investment in the lives of people in South Sudan.
    Susan and I will be spending at least $750 to make a difference. I'll be baking my no frills, simply chocolate, kinda ugly, really tasty cake!
    And during our worship services on Sunday, each offering that isn't marked "pledge" will be given to our friends in South Sudan.  
    Please start baking, and email a title and brief description to Polly Tangora so she can streamline check-in by preparing your bid forms in advance. Then post your amazing goodies on Facebookor Instagram, tagging All Saints' and using the hashtag #AfricaBakeAuction. 
    All the best, 
    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage


    Dear Friends,

    I invite you to join me on a pilgrimage to Washington DC on March 24th to support the young people from Florida who are marching in memory of their slain friends, murdered in their high school.

    I believe this journey to DC or a shorter trip to Downtown Chicago needs to be an intrinsic part of our Lenten Discipline this year. This country can no longer sigh and wring our collective hands and be lulled into thinking that there is nothing else we can do. We can show up. We can show up by the thousands, by the hundreds. That showing up begins when each one of us changes a plan and alters a schedule to be there to show we care. Because we do. 

    For DC, we’ll leave Friday evening at 5:00, March 23rd. Click here for more information and to purchase bus tickets. We’ll March during the day on the 24th. And return Saturday night so that we all may be back in time for Palm Sunday Services, March 25th. Know that the procession we take part in on Saturday will be a Palm Sunday Procession for the world and not just our church.

    I hope you can be there, with your family and friends in either DC or Downtown.

    All my best,



    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    Bags for RCS

    Bags for RCS

    We're running low on paper and reusable bags for our Tuesday night pantry. Please bring us your extras! 
    We will be taking donations on Tuesday evenings, M-F 9am-4pm, and on Sundays during church services. Look for the bins by the doors. Thanks for your help!

    Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

    Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

    Tuesdays 6:15-8:00pm 

    RCS is looking for help serving and cleaning up after dinner on Tuesdays from 6:15-8:00pm.

    If you're able to volunteer, contact Emily or Operations Manager Parker Callahan, or call 773-769-0282.

    Donate to The 1883 Project

    Donate to The 1883 Project

    Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

    1883 Construction web 

    Fixing This Old Church

    Fixing This Old Church

    Here is a collection of photos of the progress of our 1883 Project. Here is a collection of bell tower photos. Check back often for updates.

    Sunday Service Times

    8:00 am Inclusive Language Eucharist
    9:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir
    10:00 am Children's Church School
    10:00 am Coffee Hour
    11:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir


    Contact Us

    4550 N. Hermitage in Chicago, IL 60640 (Directions)

    Phone (773) 561-0111


    Information about pastoral care.



    Bonnie on Huffington Post

    Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

    Pain. Change. Hope.

    November 15, 2015

    What Does St. Francis of Assisi Have to Say to Us Today?

    October 4, 2015

    Wake Up Calls

    September 6, 2015

    Christmas Reminds Us That We, Like God, Are Human, Too

    December 24, 2014

    The Deep Sleep of Racial Oblivion: One Pastor's Sin of Omission

    November 30, 2014

    Pulpit Swap

    The Pulpit Swap between St Thomas and All Saints is part of our ongoing effort to bring our parishes closer together as we engage in a conversation about systemic racism and how we can work together to forge new possibilities and outcomes.

    Going Home—Changed

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Bonnie Perry of All Saints Episcopal Church on October 16, 2016.  

    When Prayers Go Unanswered

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Dr Fulton L Porter celebrating at All Saints Episcopal Church on Oct16 2016.