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'For Everything There Is A Season'

'For Everything There Is A Season'

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Advent: the Coming 

Read : Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7; Micah 5: 2-4 (NIV) 

When Advent arrives, it means for most of us that Christmas is just around the corner and must be prepared for. Sadly for many, this means all the hurdles of cards, posting dates, deadlines, shopping, cooking, ordering. It should be a time of wonder, preparation and contemplation of this momentous event.  

I can still remember my amazement as a young child at the number of unexpected presents at Christmas and it was not even my birthday. It was carefully explained that it was the birthday of Jesus Christ, God's special gift to the world.  

As I grew older, I was also fascinated by the concept of the wonderful light of Christ which could never be put out, coming to us at the darkest time of the year, and the frisson of the carols such as 'In the bleak midwinter', 'Past three o'clock and a cold and frosty morning' and 'It came upon a midnight clear'. I love the wonderful legends that have grown up round this mystic season such as the animals gathering in the stable on Christmas Eve to do their own worshipping; but of course, one must never go to find out.  

Advent marks the beginning of the church's year and is a time of looking forward. It is a time of waiting, hoping and expecting. We are reminded by the collect that as we wait to celebrate the birth of Christ we are also looking for his coming again in glory and in judgement. Looking forward to an event can be a very positive time but sometimes when the event takes place, it is not what we expected. Sometimes it is just as good or even better. 

The coming of Christ as a baby is a story most of us have known from childhood. We know how he came; he was born in difficult circumstances and some discomfort to parents who had been obliged to make a journey at an awkward time. We know what happened afterwards and how the family had to escape to Egypt until after the reign of Herod. Thereafter his youth was spent in Nazareth in the house of a carpenter. He only came to public notice after his recognition by John the Baptist.  

However if one looks at the prophecies in the Old Testament, the Jews were awaiting a longed-for Messiah but they envisaged a military leader who would oust the Romans and give them back their country as God's chosen people. 'They were all looking for a King.' They did not look for a leader who, accompanied by a band of followers, would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and who was famous throughout the land for healing and preaching. How very different from their hopes! 

The other half of Advent is preparing for Christ's second coming in glory. How would we feel if Christ came again the day after tomorrow? Would we feel we had done our best or would we think that we could have used better the gifts we had been given? So much done but so much still to do. How could we give an account of ourselves? 

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Another aspect of the Advent season is how Christ comes to the individual with his transforming powers. Every Christmas we hope and pray that Christ will come in a meaningful way not just to ourselves, but to the hundreds of people who find themselves in churches at carol services or on Christmas day, but who never darken the doors for the rest of the year and in whose daily life Christ and his message have no part at all.  

Perhaps it was because the attraction of Christmas is so universal that John Donne chose as the subject for his Christmas sermon 'The Mercy of God,' almost four centuries ago. He had these words about the coming of God through Jesus Christ:

'(God) brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light. He can bring thy summer out of winter though thou have no spring. Though in the way of fortune, or misunderstanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damp and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to banish all shadows; as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries. All occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons.' 

And so we move into Advent, lighting our candles, opening the doors in our calendars, preparing in so many ways for the coming of the celebration of Christ's birth. We also live in hope and expectation of Christ's second coming. 

Recently I read a meditation on this theme which I found thought-provoking. It comes from the current edition of Pray Now. 

'Let us not talk of hope and all the dreams contained in the moment of birth of a child, an idea, a possibility. Hope crosses fingers and without any input from us ourselves wants the best outcome. Let us speak more with expectation-for to expect something means the possibility of it happening is real. So may we be real in the world: really there, really alive, really working towards welcoming the reign of God.'

Bridget Cameron, 2017


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