Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ!
Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. It is the four weeks before Christmas, beginning on December 1st this year. This is the Church’s New Year’s Day. The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin ‘adventus’ which means ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’. This time for Christians is a season of hope and the period of preparation for celebration of the birth of Jesus. They also look forward to the time that Jesus will come again.
The clergy wear and pulpit fall usually changes to purple during Advent. There are often no flowers decorating the church, but it is customary to have an Advent Crown also known as an Advent Wreath. These are made from a circle of evergreen plants such as holly and ivy which symbolises a God with no beginning or end. The evergreen is a reminder that God does not change. The holly is also a symbol of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. Four candles are fixed round the circle and another is placed in the middle. Various colours of candles have been used such as three purple and a pink with one white in the middle. The unlit candles represent darkness. One purple candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent. On the second Sunday, it is lit again together with another purple one, and in some traditions the pink candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday as this used to be the Sunday in the Roman Catholic lectionary when the entrance Introit, “Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice”, has been used. It is reminding us that the end of Advent is almost here, and we are joyful. So, this Sunday used to be known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’. finally, on Christmas Day, the white candle is also lit representing Jesus Christ as the light of the world.
Every Blessing as we enter the season of Advent
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: 6.30pm 22.12.19
I have always been passionate about the King’s College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols since discovering it in the 80s and this is why.
The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who at the age of thirty-four had just been appointed Dean of King’s after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship. Many of those who took part in the first service must have recalled those killed in the Great War when it came to the famous passage ‘all those who rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light’.
The pattern and strength of the service, as Dean Milner-White pointed out, derives from the lessons and not the music. ‘The main theme is the development of the loving purposes of God …’ seen ‘through the windows and words of the Bible’.
It can be hard at times for us to see the loving purposes of God in our complicated and at times violent, selfish and unloving world, having just observed Remembrance Sunday and al that it symbolises. Christina Rossetti expressed her faith in the message of Christmas as follows:
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, love divine; Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine, Love to God and to all the world
Love for plea and gift and sign
Is there someone calling out for our love this Christmas? Is there someone we need to forgive or with whom we need to be reconciled?
When we send our greetings to our friends and relatives, is there someone else we could include this Christmas? It doesn’t have to be someone we know. Why not join with charities such as Amnesty International in sending greetings to those imprisoned unjustly? Or when we gather with friends and family for meal times, is there a neighbour we could include who is lonely? For in so doing, we would be shining a light in the darkness and bringing love into another’s life. The story of Christmas is about barriers being broken down and we show our love of God in how we care for our sisters and brothers.
The Opening Prayer (Bidding Prayer) from the Kings College Carol Service reminds us that Christianity is about looking beyond ourselves:
let us pray for the needs of the whole world, and all people; for peace upon the earth Christ came to save;
for love and unity within the one Church he did build; for goodwill among all peoples.
And particularly at this time let us remember the poor, the cold, the hungry, the oppressed;
the sick and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children;
May our preparations and our celebrations be truly inclusive this Christmas time. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing you at our Carol Service.
Every Blessing, Abe
Revd Abe Konadu-Yiadom