Brothers and Sister in Christ,
I greet you in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Amen!
I write mindful that Sunday, 25th November, traditionally known as Christ the King, will be the last Sunday of the Christian year (2017-18). Then we start all over again with Advent on 2nd December!
The readings in Advent have the theme of waiting. In the Old Testament, ‘waiting’ gives us time to find out about ourselves – and what we find may not always be attractive. I am ashamed sometimes of how impatient I have become. However, waiting also gives us space to pray and time to work out what really matters in our lives. Waiting helps us discover whether we really do trust God and whether we will step outside our busy, noisy lives and listen to God. Thinking about it, there is a lot of waiting in our faith. The Old Testament people waited for generations for the Promised One to come. We find the four weeks of Advent, are quite long enough and our anticipation and expectation as we get closer to Christmas can be very hard to bear indeed. In our waiting for a baby, we also join the disciples who also had to wait to see what lay ahead for their country and their church amidst a future outside of Europe. Whatever the future holds, we still wait for Jesus to come back and pray, “Maranatha, come Lord, come.” In the meantime, we pray, “Your will be done.”Psalm 40:1 celebrates waiting patiently for the Lord and the prophet Isaiah promises that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Waiting on God is a regular refrain in the life of faith. It is an expression of the healthy heart’s desire: “O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (Isaiah 26:8). And it is an echo of the unparalleled power and grace of God, “who acts for those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).
Sometimes we forget that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5) and that love itself is patient (1 Corinthians:13). To accept the importance of waiting is to be countercultural. Yet it is in these waiting times that God can often do deep work in our souls, or in the life of our congregation, community or world, such as during times of uncertainty. Being hasty can often make us superficial. Having to wait often sorts out what really matters in our lives. It is a time to renew faith and hope. It is a time to deepen our prayer life. It is a time also to remember the extraordinary patience of God.
Advent also offers an opportunity to think about generosity. There’s nothing more generous than God sending his son into the world for us. Everyone knows Christmas time as the season of giving, but what does that really mean for Christians?
Many of us will spend December rushing around getting ready for Christmas, but would we be so busy that we’ve forgotten what Advent really is about – remembering the birth of our Saviour and readying our hearts for his return?
I know that this time of year can very quickly get very superficial, as well as being fraught with a lot of different emotions for people.
It is my hope and prayer that this Advent will help you to reflect on God’s great generosity to us and how we can show it to those around us. May we be encouraged to think of those who might be struggling with loneliness in Advent and Christmas and above all, become a gift of encouragement to one another.
Finally, in this Advent journey, may we learn the discipline and blessing of waiting.
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
As we worship with joy this season and celebrate the coming of the promised Saviour, may we all know something of the love that will come down at Christmas, bringing hope where hope is gone.
And so, we await you, Jesus, child of God, gift of joyfulness in a world of bleakness; gift of peace in a violent world, gift of hope in a despairing world; gift of wisdom in a foolish world, gift of forgiveness in a guilty world; gift of love and justice in a world of unfairness.
In Your good time, O Lord, reveal to all the world the light that no darkness can extinguish. Amen.
With every blessing,