It’s cold and wet, it seems to get dark around midday, and the heating needs to go on even earlier. Everyone you talk to seems depressed about the weather and the time of year. There is only one thing I can say in response to all this….and that’s ‘good’, for it means that Advent will soon be with us!
In Advent we look forward. In Advent, God’s people, are called to be people of hope, knowing that God is about to act. We will re-tell the story of the Patriarchs and the Prophets, until history brings us to a point in time where God acted to share our human lives. Jesus, the Son of God, was born of Mary in the stable at Bethlehem, come to share our humanity, with all its joys and sorrows, and through his death and resurrection, to lift up all that is human into the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. If that seems a lot to grasp, it means we are never left alone, that there is always a meaning, purpose and dignity to every human life, however difficult the way may seem.
Alongside those difficult times, perhaps life can seem just grey, or a little obscure. Advent is an opportunity to listen again to God’s promises, but if we are really to do that, it will need a little discipline and determination, for there are so many other noises ready to drown it all out. Perhaps the real shame of this time of year is not the over-commercialisation, but that it is so easy to get dragged down onto the trivial and the irrelevant. So, here is a very simple Advent exercise.
You can read this all at one go, or at a few sittings, but spend some time with the Book of Isaiah, chapters 40 to 55. This section, often known as ‘second Isaiah’, was written at a time of exile, when the homeland of the people of God has ceased to exist and Jerusalem has been destroyed. Yet God will not forget his people, and out of the darkness emerges the promises of the Messiah, come to serve and save his people.
There will be a number of Readings from Isaiah during Advent, forming a backdrop as we look forward. On Christmass Day we will hear these words, drawing together the heart of the message,
Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem,
For the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52.9)
Enjoy the carols and the glitter by all means, but may there be a little time for sharing in the spiritual pilgrimage of the season.
May the Lord when he comes find us watching and waiting,