The beginning of Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year for the vast majority of Christendom that follows the cycle and seasons of the Church Year centered on the lectionary. With the beginning of the Church Year, it is fitting that the first Feast day of the year belongs to St. Andrew the Apostle, brother of Simon Peter.
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist before being called by Jesus. It is possible that he witnessed the baptism of our Lord in the River Jordan, and was there drawn to the presence of God in the flesh by the witness of the Father and the Spirit. It was he who brought Peter to see Jesus, and they were later called as the fishermen, to leave their nets, and everything behind to follow Jesus.
Andrew was named one of the twelve Apostles by Christ. In the lists of the Apostles, he is among the first four mentioned. Not much is known about his work and mission following Christ’s ascension. Andrew is generally thought to have died a martyr’s death on an X shaped cross. Hence, the symbol of St. Andrew is an X shaped cross on a field of blue. His death is said to have taken place during the reign of Nero on November 30, 60 A. D. in Patras, Geece.
There is some controversy over the remains of St. Andrew. In 357 A. D., Andrew’s remains were said to have been moved from Patras to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, where they remained until the thirteenth century when the French took Constantinople. Cardinal Capua moved the remains of Andrew to the cathedral of Amalfi in Italy. The Scots on the other hand claim that the bones of St. Andrew are bones are in Scotland. In any event, a Greek monk at Patras, St. Regulus, or Rule as he is commonly known, and keeper of the relics of St. Andrew at Patras, is said to have received a vision to move the relics including the bones of St. Andrew to Scotland c. 732. Another story has the Bishop of Hexham, a collector of relics, removing the bones from Greece to Scotland around the same time. The church of St. Rule, and eventually the cathedral of St. Andrew were built and were said to have housed the remains of the Apostle until the time of the Reformation when they were said to have been destroyed by Calvinists. Of course, St. Andrew, Scotland is now famous for its golf course.
All that aside — it makes for a interesting history lesson — what we do know for sure is that Andrew was the first Apostle called by Christ, and the entire Church, both East and West, celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew on November 30 each year. It is a small symbol of unity that binds the church together at the begining of the Church Year.
Hymn for St. Andrew’s Feast Day
JESUS CALLS US, Mrs. Cecil F. Alexander, 1818–1895
Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea;
day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, “Christian, follow Me.”
Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us, saying, “Christian, love Me more.”
In our joys and in our sorrows, days of toil and hours of ease,
still He calls, in cares and pleasures, “Christian, love Me more than these.”
Jesus calls us: by Thy mercies, Savior, may we hear Thy call,
give our hearts to Thy obedience, serve and love Thee best of all.
Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me. (John 12:26)
The story behind the hymn:
God’s call for discipleship comes to every believer, not just a special few. Whether or not we hear God’s call depends on our spiritual sensitivity.
The last Sunday in November is known as St. Andrew’s Day. It has traditionally been an important day in the liturgical worship of the Anglican church. It commemorates the calling of Andrew by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 4:18–20 and Mark 1:16–l8. “At once they [Simon and his brother Andrew] left their nets and followed Him.” Andrew has become the patron saint of Scotland, and the oblique cross on which tradition says he was crucified is part of the Union Jack of the British flag.
This is another of the quality hymn texts written by Cecil Frances Alexander, recognized as one of England’s finest women hymn writers. It is one of the few of Mrs. Alexander’s hymns not specifically written for children; nearly all of her more than 400 poems and hymn texts were intended for reaching and teaching children with the gospel.
Following her marriage in 1850 to the distinguished churchman, Dr. William Alexander, who later became archbishop for all of Ireland, Mrs. Alexander devoted her literary talents to helping her husband with his ministry, including writing appropriate poems that he could use with his sermons. One fall day, two years after their marriage, Dr. Alexander asked his wife if she could write a poem for a sermon he was planning to preach the following Sunday for his St. Andrew’s Day sermon. The pastor closed his sermon that day with the new poem written by his wife. These words have since been widely used in all churches to challenge God’s people to hear Christ’s call as Andrew did and then to follow, serve, and love Him “best of all.”
From Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (356). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.