November can be described as the month of the dead; we have All Saint, All Souls and Remembrance, if that all sounds a bit depressing why not call November the month of All Saints. I was reading a great passage about this period surrounding All Saints the other day. “Sanctity is not so much about hero-worship as about accessibility; the saints are real men and women of every age in whose lives we can glimpse heaven in our midst. They are our partners and prayer; joint petitioners in our conversation and relationship with God”.
These next few Sundays propel us towards the season of Advent which in the past have been regarded as a period of ‘restraint, preparation and penitence’, but there is another aspect to Advent which I feel is much more dynamic, it is the longing for the coming of Christ’s kingdom and his righteousness. If restraint, preparation and penitence are about the individual, perhaps the eschatological longing for the coming of Christ’s kingdom is more inclusive. Remember longing for Christ’s reign is not just hoping God will wave the magic wand, it is about making Christ’s vision clear in our actions, words and relationships.
Our thoughts turn this weekend to Remembrance Sunday. This was always a very special weekend for the Downes family, as growing up my brothers and I paraded with all the other scouts and cubs to our parish church of St Thomas a Becket, in Northaw in Hertfordshire, and stood outside by the War Memorial on the village green to lower our flags as we heard a remarkable Northaw man called Major Russell Dore declaim Laurence Binyon’s famous words “They shall grow not old….”. Major Dore – I can’t bring myself to call him Russell – was a World War One veteran with an impressive chest of medals and he didn’t need a microphone to make himself heard – it seemed his voice boomed around the whole of the village !
My Dad joined the Navy – the senior service – towards the end of the Second World War and although he didn’t see too much action he was very proud of having served at sea. On the Saturday night of Remembrance Weekend, we always as a family gathered in front of the television to watch the Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of the Queen and the Royal Family. Not too many years ago there were great gymnastic and acrobatic displays from young servicemen and women and also races between the services to see who could take apart and re-assemble a field gun the quickest. Defence cuts seem to have put an end to these activities. Nowadays it seems to be always Katherine Jenkins or Jamie Cullum knocking out a song or two. My Dad always used to love to see the servicemen assembling in the round. He would judge the tightness and professionalism of all those marching down the stairs; I seem to remember he was always very scathing about the RAF!
It is important that this day; this weekend is never forgotten. That we never forget the capacity of man to render unto man evil. That we never forget the sacrifices that have made on our behalf.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”
With every blessing,