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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Weekly Message for December 17

Weekly Message for December 17

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow is our long awaited and much anticipated #HamiltonMeetsJesus Christmas pageant. As I write this note, I remember Fonzi and the writers’ of that beloved 70s TV show, Happy Days, and conclude that this year’s pageant may truly have "jumped the shark." That said, our young people have spent an inordinate amount of time working on this year’s production. Tomorrow you will see that the camel and sheep legislators are busy amending the celestial republic’s founding documents, the shepherds are trying to figure out their new tax bills, the innkeeper offers Joseph some sage advice, “Smile more, talk less,” Mary is adjusting to a new donkey, the archangels have an opening rap that really puts some flesh on the notion of the virgin birth, and King Herod is quite sure that the immigrant Wise Men will be back. All of which is to say, it’s pretty much business as usual for the All Saints’ Christmas Pageant which will be premiering at the 9 and 11 o’clock worship services. 

In the midst of the Hamilton hoopla one truth I hope to offer to all of us is that God, in the infant Jesus, came into this world to show each of us the unending power of love. While Alexander Hamilton and the founding parents of our republic took a step toward liberty and justice, I invite you to remember and hold dear that the real revolution, the true up-ending of our world, comes not through government policy, but through our ability to live our lives in such a way that the love of God is made real in all we do. Please let that revolution begin.

To avoid donkeys, camels, and chaos, attend the 8:00 service and then return for the absolutely amazing Advent and Christmas Lessons and Carols that our choir will be offering at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. To end a long day at 5:30 we’ll all journey to the back room of O’Shaughnessy’s Pub for Beer and Caroling! At noon—we’ll be serving a light lunch and transforming our sanctuary from Advent austerity to Christmas greenery. Please come and join in any or all the activities that may feed your soul in this season of expectation and birth. 

All my very best to you on this my MOST FAVORITE WEEKEND of the year,


Working Against the Virus of Racism

Working Against the Virus of Racism

kellybdWe are very excited that the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be spending a weekend with us this fall, September 23 and 24. Kelly was formerly the Canon Theologian at our National Cathedral. In the fall she will become the first Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, now located at Union Theological Seminary. We've invited Kelly to spend the weekend with us so that we might again return to our work on confronting racism. Kelly is an amazing preacher and theologian and we are beyond honored that she is making time in her incredibly busy schedule to be with us. Look for more details in the next few weeks on the spirituality and theology that we will be exploring together. 

In the event that you find yourself looking for some interesting summer reading, here are some books she has suggested we investigate: HomecomingThe Color of Law, and one by Kelly called Stand Your Ground. She also suggested that watching 13th on Netflix would be helpful.

Racism is an issue that we are called to confront and challenge and end. It is not something that will just die a gentle death. Our hope is that with our time with Kelly and one another, we may again return to this important work. 

All Saints' Book Club

All Saints' Book Club

midnightFall Reading List Selected

The All Saints Book Club has defined its reading list through the fall. The meetings start at 7:30 PM usually at the home of a member. The locations and further details are on our Facebook page. Here is the schedule for the next several months:

  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe (meet in the Reading Room at the church)
  • October 12 - "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina
  • November 9 - "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
  • December 14 - Pick your own poetry book and share favorite poem(s)

For additional information, contact Mike Burke (

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!

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

 Sundays at 2pm

breakersbibleWe are very excited to announce that every Sunday at 2:00 pm, All Saints' offers something new at the Breakers - An Evening Prayer Service! Our first event was Sunday, December 4th, and went marvelously well - we had 13 attendees! Folks are very pleased that there's a Protestant service being offered in addition to the current choices (which are Catholic and Moody Bible.) The Prayer Service itself is printed in large print and in bulletin style with scripture taken each week from the Common Lectionary.

The weekly service starts at 2:00 pm, upstairs on the second floor Meditation Room, and lasts about 15 minutes. Please contact Paul Mallatt if you have questions, or comments at 773-860-4649. When you can, stop by the Breakers (5333 N Sheridan Rd) where the parking is free (for 2 hours), the coffee is hot, and the folks are friendly!


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.

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

helloDo you feel called to create an open, welcoming, hospitable environment at All Saints? Do you like meeting and connecting with people? Join the new Hospitality Ministry! Members of the Hospitality Ministry will help the clergy and vestry create a welcoming culture by greeting new members, engaging new faces at coffee hour, and helping connect new members of All Saints with our various programs.

Interested? Contact Diane Doran or Michelle Mayes. Include "Hospitality Ministry" in the subject line.

Join Our Member Directory!

Join Our Member Directory!

Our new Associate Rector, Emily Williams Guffey, is enjoying getting to know everyone in our congregation. Help her put names and faces together by adding yourself to our online directory!

If you are a member of All Saints' and haven't already registered for the directory, please contact our resident web guru Jim Crandall at and he will send a user name, password, and instructions.

Love on a Plate

Love on a Plate

Join the All Saints' Care Ministry! 

casseroleThe Care Ministry at All Saints' is a quiet one, simply providing meals after a new baby arrives, after surgery, during an illness. Because when life gets complicated, dinner is often the last thing on our minds--but sometimes a meal and visit from a friend is exactly what we need!

If you can provide a meal, give someone a ride, or run an errand once in awhile, please email You'll be contacted when a need arises and you can sign up to help at your convenience.


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 

This OLD Church

This OLD Church

This week’s stories of the bell tower: The beams and posts in the bell tower are being filled with epoxy and fungicide to prevent future insect damage and to restore their strength and integrity. Here are some photos of the work currently taking place. Everywhere you see white is where the post or beam is being rebuilt, restored and protected.
The blue hue in the photo is from the tarp surrounding the bell tower enabling Ron Young and his crew to continue working in the dropping temperatures.
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.