Advent Sunday 29th November 2020 Year B
We are at the beginning of a new year; the Church’s calendar refreshes itself today and we begin anew at Advent Sunday. The Church year starts a month or so before the calendar year so for most people 2020 is not yet over. For many this year, I suspect the ending of 2020 will come with very mixed emotions. It has been a very strange (and forgive the too often repeated word) ‘unprecedented’ eleven months, thus far. 2020 will no doubt go down in history as a year when things changed, when normal disappeared and all the familiar map reference points of our lives were swept away and new ones put in their place. With all this in mind, these words from Stephen Cherry’s poem ‘Advent wreath’ feel very apt to me:
I wonder about circles
and straight lines.
I wonder about eternity
I wonder, though this sounds grand, about the
purpose of my life.
Wondering and pondering on what one’s life means is something I have found myself doing a great deal this year as what I thought was familiar and stable has proved not to be. I have had to re-establish where my life’s ‘map-reference’ points are; some of them have remained the same, like praying Morning Prayer before breakfast but others have changed dramatically, not least worship on Sundays and Wednesdays. Friends I used to see regularly cannot now be visited, but thank goodness for the telephone and Zoom. Twelve months ago who had heard of Zoom? I certainly hadn’t and getting to grips with it was only one of the computer things I had to rapidly teach myself. For many of you that will sound familiar. So pondering on the circles of life or its straight lines will probably resonate.
Advent is always a time for reflection as we anticipate the coming birthday celebrations of our Lord. The readings take on an apocalyptic theme looking to the end time and the coming again of the Christ and we do it through the lens of the first coming of Christ some 2000 years ago. I often wonder if the second coming will be like the first. Unexpected and surprising, almost unnoticed yet world changing. Will Christ’s coming turn the world upside down or will he be ignored? If a minute virus can change the world, I hope that the returning Christ will do the same.
Advent also reminds us that we do not know when Christ will return, just as our ancestors did not know when the Messiah would come. We can look for signs in the heavens or attribute natural disasters as sign posts to Christ’s return or we can just pray, that one day Christ will come again and that our lives will be transformed by his power and grace and above all, by his all embracing love. Christ’s first coming came from an act of love and I would think that God would probably do the same again. Because, above all else our God is a God of love. A God who loves us so much that he sent his Son to redeem us and to show us the error of our previous ways and in whose birth, death and resurrection we are still intimately bound up. Whether or not we accept Christ as our Saviour we cannot ignore the fact that we are united with him in all that he has done. Christ did not come to us the first time only for selected individuals he came for everyone regardless of who they were and whether or not they were able to acknowledge who he was. This remains as true today as it was then.
Today we will light the first candle - of light in the darkness - on the Advent wreath as I hope you will do so at home as well. A candle signifying the start of our journey through Advent with Christ, as we hear and respond to the call of the Old Testament prophets who hoped for the Messiah to redeem them. As we light the candle ‘wonder’ at what it signifies and how it relates to your life; ponder on the meaning of life and whether time is linear or circular. What does time mean in your life and where does Christ fit into it as well? How are you journeying through the years and what does this past year tell us about that journey? A challenge for all of us as we pilgrimage through Advent. Amen.