Thoughts for the Month

Dear Friends,

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Advent has become almost like a lost season. The preparations for Christmas are so absorbing that this becomes the main focus. Instead of a season of waiting filled with expectation and hope we seem instead to have a time of frantic planning and frenetic activity.

Nevertheless, the Church needs to engage with the culture around us in order to be effective in mission; the church is, after all, incarnational. Singing carols during Advent might not be quite what the Church has done throughout the ages, but it does enable us to make connections. At Christmas there are people attending Church who would not normally do so throughout the year. It is an opportunity to open our doors more widely and to show even greater hospitality to the stranger or the absent friend. Our Christmas services are full of people who do not normally come—last year at Holy Trinity Bosham, we saw over 1,100 people at our Christmas services. The singing of carols locally in December can provide occasions too for sharing the gospel with people in schools, homes and in our village.

I find it helpful to have a dual understanding of Advent. In terms of outreach it is like an early celebration of Christmas. In our regular liturgy and prayer life, the focus must be on the Advent themes of longing and hope. When we think of Jesus it may seem odd that we long and hope for someone who has already come. In all kinds of ways though, Jesus still comes to us. We do not lead perfect lives, so we constantly need a renewed experience of the presence of Christ. Also, our world is far from perfect and we long for the fulfilment of all things: the marriage of earth and heaven.

Christmas can be a wonderful time, but in our society it seems to fizzle out fairly soon after the Church begins the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The world offers a quick fix and the possibility of over-indulgence. What it fails to offer is peace and lasting joy. These are the themes on which the Church focuses during Advent. Then in Christmastide we rejoice in the birth of our Saviour, who did not arrive with a fanfare but in a humble way. His loving presence offers us a new beginning, a restored hope and a deeper sense of joy and peace. Please make the most of Advent and enjoy the celebrations of Christmas as it draws near.

Martin

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