Advent I
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isiaiah 11:1

No one will ever mistake me for a gardener.  I wish I was one of those people who could make a lawn look spectacular or landscape my backyard, or even keep a peace lily from drooping; but, alas, my gifts are elsewhere.  So whenever metaphors and symbols from our tradition begin to move into the more agrarian, I’m always equal parts hopeful and wistful. The prophet Isiaiah, like many who tell the story of God in the world, uses a lot of agricultural/horticultural images to make a point.  A shoot out of a stump is a great image for new life out of something that has been cut down and left dormant, so this particular passage from the second Sunday in Advent has resonance for me as we walk through the season together.

Because I am not adept at keeping plants alive, a passage that says that new growth comes from the deadest stump we can imagine is full of hope in the midst of axes and clear-cut forests. Now, not to be overly optimistic, but I see the story of sprouts out of seemingly dead wood as good news for those of us who struggle in the proverbial fields around us.

Once again, the church is calling us to pay attention to the tension that exists between stumps and shoots.  A stump seems pretty dead to me, but Isiaiah says otherwise. “Life finds a way,” to quote Dr. Ian Malcom from Jurassic Park .  On this first Sunday in Advent we will begin the journey of exploring light in the darkness and those things that somehow don’t seem to go together.  Those places where life pops up out of nowhere… even when we think it couldn’t possibly.

This is, of course, a recurring theme for us as Christians.  Life overcoming death, triumph over the grave, houseplants bursting back even after I’ve forgotten them on vacation.  It’s who we are, and what we are called to remember in Advent.  

This Sunday, we will participate in an old tradition where the congregation takes part in “hanging the greens” around our gathering spaces.  The “greens” remind us of everlasting life (because they are evergreens) and our putting them up reminds us of our part in sharing that news with the world.

Now here’s the thing… these greens look an awful lot like Christmas decorations to me, but that’s okay.  It’s just another way we have a tension between our rush toward a “holly jolly Christmas” and prayerful call to “slow down, it’s Advent.”  On Sunday, we will call them Advent decorations and try our level best to remember that we are not quite ready for mangers and shepherds yet.  

Trees and wreaths, garlands and boughs of holly all remind us that God is doing some gardening of God’s own this season.  Even in the midst of winter, new life is just beneath the surface. Fragrant pine and prickly holly point us to the larger truth that God is with us even in the cold (mildly temperate) days of winter.

Sunday morning you and I will have a chance to hang up some greens together and make this place look a little bit different.  Perhaps we can take this time to share the stories of our lives where a shoot broke loose out of a stump and God’s ever-greening Love was known to us.  Maybe our stories will bring us together in this Advent season as we prepare for the coming of Christ into our lives again… in new ways.

Always remember, you are loved beyond measure whether you’re a green thumb or not…

Peace,
Ben+
For Your Information
Sunday, Dec. 1st - There will be no Sunday School or Childcare available on this Sunday.

Children's Choir will still meet and rehearse.
Snowbird Concert Series Begins Again
Snowbird Concert Series welcomes...
Michael Hearne
on December 5th, 2019

Michael Hearne - Legendary award winning songwriter and guitarist who's musical essence captures the southwest! He is one of the integral cornerstones in our folk music heritage.

This is a FREE family friendly, all ages, and alcohol free event.  St. Mark's Episcopal Church is also 100% accessible for those with mobility issues. It's a donation based series! There is no cover charge. 
 
We open the doors at 5:30 We serve complimentary munchies at 6:00. We have yummy queso, chips, snacks, and more! The show starts promptly at 7:00. There's a Q & A between the artist and the audience at 8:00 and the entire event usually wraps up at 8:15.
A direct and compelling headline
All Church Family Advent Celebration: December 8th
10:00-11:00 in place of Sunday school and 12:15-1:00 
This year, we've turned our annual Family Advent Celebration into an all-church event! Stations for all ages include 
  • Advent Wreath Making 
  • Card Making 
  • Storytelling 
  • Playdoh with Advent themed cookie cutters
  • Table Games 
The adult Sunday school class has volunteered to join the hospitality committee by bringing extra cookies and warm drinks for all! 

We do need volunteers to help set up, man stations, and clean up! If you are interested in volunteering, please sign up here:  https://www.signupgenius.com/go/805094EA9AC2DA0FC1-volunteer

***We'd love for everyone to bring clippings of greens from their own yards and wire cutters to share, if able! 

Contact Kris Spilker for more information at  kris.spilker@sanmarcosepiscopal.org

St. Mark's Inquirer's / Confirmation Class Starts
Have you ever had questions about this fascinating tradition of Christianity called The Episcopal Church? Have you ever wanted to know more about the history of Christianity and how the church is the church of today? Have you ever wondered why priests wear those white robes and colorful stoles? Then join us for the St. Mark's Inquirers Class beginning on Sunday, December 8th. We will meet in the Library from 6:30 - 8pm. If you are interested in the class or have questions, please reach out to the church office.
Events and Happenings Coming Up
Things Coming Up!
ECW Christmas Party
Will be on Dec. 12th
Come join the fun at our ECW Christmas Party on December 12th. - 6:00pm at the home of Brenda Remme at 1132 Belvin Street, San Marcos, Texas. Brenda is providing beverages for us so please bring only your favorite "hors d'oeuvre" ! We are also supporting our Redwood Community Outreach Project with an un-wrapped gift for a boy or girl.

Parking at 1132 Belvin  
If steps are a problem, please park or be dropped off in back of the house where there are no steps. Otherwise, please park in front on the driveway, the street or the grassy area in front.

If you need a ride, please contact Patty Polk in the church office.
Christmas Poinsettias can be purchased as a dedication or memorial to someone special in your life. They will be placed around the Sanctuary and Altar during the season of Christmas.

Be on the look out for Poinsettia donation cards in the the pews each Sunday during Advent. Each Poinsettia is $15.
Sunday, December 15th
Transformation House Visit
Environmental Stewardship Coffee Sales
Choral Offerings
Lessons and Carols at St. Mark's
Wednesday, December 11th from 7 - 8:30pm
The Festival of Lessons and Carols is a service that follows our journey from darkness to light in the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus as told in bible readings or lessons from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels, interspersed with the singing of Advent carols, hymns and choir anthems.  
San Marcos Performing Arts Association Presents..
In collaboration with the SMART Orchestra - Handel’s Messiah on Saturday, December 14 at 3 p.m. at the First Baptist Church. This year we will add Part Three for a delightful addition to Part One and the Hallelujah Chorus. Please join us for this wonderful offering of a musical delight!
It's beginning to look...
It’s not too early to start preparing for Christmas!

St. Mark’s Children’s Choir with the Sunday School and Preschool are beginning to prepare the Christmas Program “Starry Night, Noisy Night”. This program presents the Christmas Story from the point of view of the animals in the stable. Your child is invited to participate by coming to rehearsals on Sunday mornings at 9:30. All music will be learned during that rehearsal time. The Program will be presented on Dec. 22 nd at the 11am worship service.
Hope to see you there!