As I write we are still in the midst of lockdown. We await news of how December will unfold, especially regarding the lockdown itself and the potential impact upon our Christmas services. Please check the church website, which we will endeavour to keep up to date, with the latest information regarding what we are able to do. At this stage I am expecting some of our services to be via Zoom and pre-recorded; we may have to manage a ‘mixed economy’, so watch this space! There is a link on page five to a carol service from Chichester Cathedral for us to enjoy.
We now enter the season of Advent. It is a season of hope as we look forward to our celebration of Christmas, when we remember our Lord’s first coming among us, born of the Virgin Mary. Advent hope is different from what I would call ‘worldly hope’, which is so often expressed in the ‘hope that something might happen’. Christian hope is founded upon the certainty of Jesus himself, who by his birth, life, death and resurrection has heralded a new order. This is a new creation of which we are part; it is a dynamic process which has and indeed is happening, as we await His second coming as Lord and King. This is not just about the future and the end of time, is it also grounded in the here and now.
I believe that Advent is also a season of expectation and anticipation. I can remember as a very young child the excitement of opening the windows on my advent calendar—I could not wait to open the window each morning… the thought of opening the final window with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus was particularly exciting, because I knew that Christmas would have arrived and that this would mean presents; notwithstanding that it was also biggest window and I hoped would reveal the biggest chocolate!
In the midst of all that troubles us and indeed the world, we can and must be optimistic. There is much in our world which is challenging at this present time, yet as Jean-Pierre de Caussade pointed out: “God instructs the heart, not by ideas but by pains and contradictions”. There are indeed many contradictions and pains in our world today, but we are not without hope. Let us allow ourselves to be lured by grace out of this present time into a new and bigger reality, to allow the pains of this present moment to be transformed by God.
Christmas is the stuff of tinsel, turkey and presents, but for Christians it is the message of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the epiphany of the wise men that speak of the generosity of God.
So then, as we look forward to Christmas, we will join with Christians throughout the world to welcome Jesus, born of Mary, in whichever way we can. In so doing we celebrate and give thanks to God for the complete and total generosity, given to us in the infant Jesus, born of Mary—the best gift of all.
May your Advent be filled with hope, expectation and anticipation—your Christmas with generosity, joy and peace.