AND STILL WE WAIT
Whatever I might have had in mind for this edition is not what this will be.
Yes, as Advent is walking towards us in greeting with arms of welcome outstretched, we will of course fall back into some of the rituals and traditions and memories and feelings that we associate with this special time of year … and all those are gifts to us in their own way.
We rejoice in them and we draw strength and perhaps also comfort from them.
The ‘Happy New Year’ as the new liturgical year begins for Christians on Advent Sunday.
The richness of stories, both biblical and not, alongside the equally rich heritage of music and song, that is so precious to us.
Some of you are well into baking and making and others have begun wrapping and posting.
A year ago many of us felt cheated as we thought the pandemic would be over ‘long before Christmas’ and it took all our selflessness and neighbourliness to put on brave faces as we isolated in order to protect others. Then fresh promises were both made and claimed of vaccinations that would send us back to ‘normal’ though to be honest ‘normal’ was so long ago it has now been added to ‘past’.
And here we stand at the threshold of another Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season and we are no more sure of what shape that season will take than we were a year ago. What is true though is that in society there is a lot more anger and also fear and despair than there was a year ago.
That is our current context as we as Christians embark on what for us is not only a season but also a journey.
As well as being pilgrims then: How we can be good neighbours offering safe encounter.
How we can be good neighbours offering prayers that are based on a longer time-scale than the immediate.
There are then really only two pointers I wish to offer here
at the beginning of this new year,
the beginning of this next stage of our journey,
amidst this more difficult context.
Light a Candle – in every meaning you can squeeze out of this.
- In the darkness the only thing that can offer relief now and perhaps hope for what may yet come – is someone striking a match and lighting a candle.
- Light physical ones by all means – ideally in your windows. Get any youngsters in your household to light one on a windowsill last thing before they go to bed and name 2 or 3 things that have been good today – so the day ends on thankful note (and they and you will sleep better). Advent candle or Advent Wreath will work equally well – whatever is usual in your home.
- Pop a little candle with a short note through doors of neighbours, anonymously if you wish – ‘thinking of you at this dark time’.
- In conversations amongst colleagues turn a moaning session around with a positive anecdote or thought and bring light into that space.
- Pray more – picture your street or work place…. no words needed just picture light coming into those homes and spaces.
- Take good care of yourselves also. We are not immune from despair especially those who have struggled with depression in the past.
- If you can find or make the time (5 minutes) read a verse which has light in it – Isaiah and John are excellent books to start – and try to let those few words stay in your mind through the day.
- Musicians too have resources they can draw on – GF Handel is a great place to start.
- If you spend vast amounts of time on your computer then replace your screen saver with a lit candle or something similar.
Add your own ideas and share them…..
In all this we are not saying the darkness is not real but we are as Christians firm in our belief and experience that the darkness is not the only narrative.
Prayer Chain – some of you will remember that 2 years ago I brought strips of coloured paper to church and we wrote names on them of people we would likely ‘miss’ during the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany season.
I made that into a prayer chain and hung it up in the Anglican Centre which was decorative as well as offering prayers. Let’s do that again.
As you attend any of the services in the coming weeks think of whom you might like to remember or whom you might like to pray for – and our chain will grow….
If you are staying safe and not attending services in church then send names to me and I will add them for you.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Isaiah 60
may hope and light be yours this Advent