This year has been a challenging year for many of you as it has for me. Many of the old certainties, both political and personal, seem to have been swept away. And so it was for the Disciples of Jesus after his death and resurrection and for His followers ever since, but if our faith means anything to us, it must speak to us in troubling times and well as in the times of joy and celebration.>
It is at such times, that we need to choose whether to live by the ways of the world or by the ways of God. That doesn’t mean separating ourselves off as a holy huddle focussed in on ourselves, refusing to have anything to do with a world riddled with dubious motives and evil actions or with the other people living in it. No, we are called to be in the world but not living by many of the values that the world holds most dear; to be God-centred rather than self-centred. So as we start a new Church Year, with the season of Advent, we have a few weeks to pause and reflect on what Jesus the Christ means in our lives; and how we should respond to that realisation.
In our tradition, we re-tell the story of Jesus each year, with the three Evangelists: Matthew, Mark and Luke, providing the narrative in turn (it’s Luke this coming year). I find that leaving the old year behind at the end of November and starting on a brand new year on the first Sunday of Advent gives me a tremendous boost, just when I need it, when the days are very short and winter is really beginning to take hold. It’s that sense of anticipation, that waiting to see what is going to happen, that lull before the storm of busyness that the festive season represents.
Don’t however run away with the idea that I am always a patient person, because I’m not. I, like the people who put up their Christmas decorations unseasonably early, are simply not good at waiting. Once things have started, most of us want them to reach their conclusion as quickly as possible. We prefer things to happen quickly; but waiting is an important discipline in life. The scriptures remind us that “those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. In fact, patience is a wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, which allows us to take our time and live in the moment rather than always wishing to have arrived at some point in the future.
In Jesus’ time people had been waiting a long time to see the coming of God’s Messiah. In our own day we might long to see something of God’s decisive action; in bringing justice and peace to our world; in seeing stability and certainty. The coming of Christ marked an end to the old order of things. In the Christ Child there is a clear sign of God’s commitment to us. In Christ, God is with us, as one of us, which is a mystery “which passes all understanding; one that we need to take time to ponder and reflect on. God’s gift to us in the season of Advent, the season of expectant waiting, is a valuable space in which to prepare ourselves to be able to become aware of and receive all that he wishes to give us.
Let us keep a watchful Advent, so that when the time comes, we may celebrate with joy the one who came, the one who will come again, the one who promises to accompany us each step of our life’s pilgrimage, however uncertain the times.