Dear Church Family,
Advent is upon us! This is my favourite of the church seasons and I have my wife to thank for this. For many years now, we have developed the practice of reducing and retreating in the run-up to Christmas. Under normal circumstances, our society would start ramping up as we count down to the “big day”. However, the season invites us to do the opposite. We are invited to join with the Old Testament narrative of waiting. Waiting for God to act. Waiting for God to send his Messiah. Waiting for God to rescue and redeem his people. We are invited in a story that involves a lot of crying out to God and getting silence back. It’s a season of waiting and preparing. So yes, there is shopping to buy, gifts to sort, and family to organise. But we are invited to wait.
And this is not a cosy, out of the box, woolly jumpers, open fires, mulled wine sort of waiting. It is about paying attention to the world and having our hearts break for the terrible situations we and so many of our fellow human beings find ourselves in. Last year, whilst reflecting on 2019, Christian author Sarah Bessey wrote this on her blog:
“How do we celebrate or "get cosy” or turn towards Christmas when our hearts are broken by Syria’s refugees, by Hong Kong’s protests, by Brexit, by the U.S.A. impeachment proceedings and detention camps, by broken treaties, by one another? When, in response to every crisis, our communities seem splintered and divided even in how to bind up each other’s wounds and careless words are flung like rocks at our own glass houses? When perhaps we are lonely or bored or tired or sick or broke or afraid? When we are grieving and sad?
In these days, celebration can seem callous and uncaring, if not outright impossible.
But here’s the thing: we enter into Advent precisely because we are paying attention.
It’s because everything hurts that we prepare for Advent. It’s because we have stood in hospital rooms and gravesides, empty churches and quiet bedrooms that we resolutely lay out candles and matches.”
Hope is born out of experiencing grief. It is what helps us survive. It is the story the people of Israel lived through as they waited for God to act. It is our story, and as Sarah Bessey reminds us, we live in a world full of grief. In relation to what has happened this year, we might be tempted to think of 2019 as being entirely wonderful! However, Advent invites us to wake up to reality and to seek God in a new way. It is an opportunity to make space to pray and to cry out to God for the world. We all have this opportunity more than usual this year given the restrictions being placed upon us by Covid-19.
What might you do this Advent to allow yourself a bit more space? How will you practice the ancient art of waiting on God? How can you draw your friends and families into these rhythms? I pray you will be blessed as you pursue these things.
We gather for our Advent Sunday Worship at 9.30 am this Sunday, live on Facebook ONLY. Please do not come to the building as only those involved in the service are permitted to attend.