Reading the news this morning, before I went over to church for morning prayer, proved more than a little unsettling. Apparently the US are three months away from a potential confrontation with N Korea. The consequences of such an encounter seem just too frightening to contemplate. How can we believe in an interventionist God when such atrocities still claim our horrified attention? I think our Advent preparation for the great feast of Christmas has something to say to us here. God became human, the Church gave Mary the title ‘God Bearer’ to emphasise the humanity of Jesus as a challenge to those who wanted to over spiritualise him. Mary, the God Bearer, a human, like you and me makes this generous act of God possible. God works through us, through you and me and the billions that inhabit this fragile world we call home. Emmanuel ‘God with us’ is the Advent message which proclaims God’s interest, that despite everything God is prepared to take us seriously, ‘to be with us’. If we allow this relationship we can, through Jesus, catch a glimpse of the divine plan, for us, for others and for the world. There is no magic wand, waving our problems and tensions away, the Gods are not playing with us, toying with us, for their sport. There is just Jesus, who makes God real and in his life makes our life possible, placing it in the context of the divine economy and there is you and me. The responsibility is ours.
The liturgical season of Advent is the shortest it can be this year, with the Fourth Sunday also being Christmas Eve. Those members of our congregation with Advent calendars will already have opened a number of windows by the time they read this bulletin.
Some churches have suggested that during Advent people might like to make an Advent Calendar box and put an appropriate item for the Foodbank collection into it each day. I think this is a great idea as the Foodbanks are likely to be increasingly in demand over the Christmas period. If you’d like to take up this idea, can I suggest you bring your gifts along to church each week and not leave it until Christmas Eve to bring them. By this time it will obviously be too late to give them to the recipients for Christmas!
I love the poem entitled ‘Advent Calendar’ written by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. I’ve reproduced it below in the hope that you might like to reflect on it.
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
© Rowan Williams
With every blessing