“Let my prayer rise up like incense before you.”
Advent has begun and so have our midweek Advent worship services! It was a joy to celebrate in worship and mark this season of waiting as the places of shadow and lingering night give birth to the light of the coming Christ. As you may have discerned, I rather enjoy both this season of Advent and the various expressions of worship we get to employ within it!
Along with Advent I have had the pleasure of being surprised and uplifted by the numerous and countless gifts each and every one of you bring to this vibrant community. A couple days ago, during our first Wednesday Holden Evening Prayer Advent worship service, I think that I may have surprised several of you! Holden Evening Prayer is just that, it is a newer musical setting composed for the much older Vespers service of the daily offices.
Throughout the history of this particular service, Psalm 141 has been a part of this service to mark a time of reflection and repentance at the close of the day. With the quoted phrase at the top being one of the main lines of Psalm 141, I wanted to actually visualize and have an experience of incense! For it is in fact from this Psalm, and then with references to prayers rising with the saints as incense in the book of Revelation that incense is used in Christian worship.
The more ancient understanding for some was that the burning of incense literally represented a visible symbol of connection for our prayers between heaven and earth. This visual representation of prayer led to an understanding of the incense as cleansing and purification. Which is why in several Catholic and orthodox traditions, the altar and font will be censed with incense prior to communion or baptism.
On top of all of that, I enjoy the smell of it! But primarily I wanted to introduce (or reintroduce!) this use of incense to you all. Now, I promise and assure you that I will not go hog wild with it; every service from here on out won’t be filled with clouds of incense smoke! What I do hope though is that the scent and wisps of incense smoke can add to your worship experience and be a distinctive and memorable aspect of our worship for you.
Above all else, I’d like to invite you join us for our Advent worship; whether at 11:30 am followed by lunch or at 6 pm for pot-luck supper and worship at 7 pm. As with every instance of worship here at LCM, I hope that you find these services contemplative, fulfilling, and restorative amidst this beautiful community. And as we inch ever closer to the joyous dawn of Christmas, let us recognize this truth of the Advent time in which we await: The light shines in the night and the shadow has not overcome it. Amen.
God’s Peace & Advent Blessings,
Pastor Dave Elliott