1 December: Advent 1
Is preparing for Christ about preparing for a brilliant cosmic event where the ground shakes and the seas roar? Or do you think of something happening that is so small it would be easily missed; something as simple as a fig tree that begins to form the tiniest of buds at the beginning of spring?
At first glance Jesus seems to suggest in this passage that it could be one or both, but I wonder if this is what he really meant? You see, as someone who lives in the city I regularly feel the ground shake beneath my feet as trucks drive past and planes fly overhead and as someone who has spent many years living near the ocean, I know that it’s roar can become a familiar friend- a soundtrack for daily life.
For me, these things are so constant that they are often easier to miss than the wonder of a new green bud on a tree at the beginning of spring. Christ came into the world in a way that could so easily have been missed and as we begin advent together it is important for each of us to remember that Christ still comes to us in the most ordinary ways.
At the beginning and end of each day in the rising and the setting of the sun, in a tear, on the whisper of the wind. And in that is the hope. Where can you find Christ today?
8 December: Advent 2
Preparing for Christ is hard and I am not just talking about all the thinking and time you need to ensure that you have exactly the right gifts and food for Christmas day. I am talking about the way that we need to change ourselves to be fully ready to be the people that Christ wants us to be.
To be fully ready to be ourselves- because of course that is who we are meant to be. As we turn away from the habits of old- selfishness, greed, self-loathing, a lack or excess of humility, failure to love or to accept love- it sometimes feels as if we are literally being stomped on or alternatively going through a furnace and being re-made.
This is why the Malachi talks about the actions of the fuller and the refiner for this is what they do to the materials they work with. I think it is also I what Christ is talking about when he says he does not come to bring peace and when he speaks of giving up life to gain life. This is what it is to take up your cross and follow Christ.
It is hard to become the disciples we were made to be, because, before we take that first step we need to be prepared to re-member who we are, and whose we are. What is the hardest thing that you find about being a disciple of Christ?
15 December: Advent 3
Right now, I bet you are starting to really worry about what you haven’t done to prepare for Christmas. I know that I am.What are the gifts that you have forgotten to buy? How will you finish the work that needs to be done before you go on holidays? Do you have enough cups and plates and spoons and seats for everyone that is coming? What is going to happen when Uncle Jo and Paula, who haven’t spoken since last Christmas, see each other again?
Whatever it is that is worrying you, Paul’s letter to the Philippians reminds us to rejoice. Paul reminds us that despite of the difficulty of our preparations, despite of our anxiety about potential challenging family reunions, despite of it all, we should always remember to rejoice.
To rejoice that we have the opportunity to do these things, to give gifts, to provide hospitality and opportunities restoration and renewal in our families. To rejoice because all of this is because Christ is coming, and does come into our lives every day, to rejoice in the knowledge that we are loved, to rejoice that we live in a country that takes the time to celebrate Christmas Day in potentially over indulgent and extravagant style.
As we prepare for Christ we should always remember to rejoice, to give thanks and to take time to welcome the peace of God which surpasses all of understanding into our hearts.
23 December: Advent 4
I suspect that preparing for the arrival of a first child (and indeed any subsequent children) is scary for all if us. I know it was scary for me, despite the fact that our first little boy was long planned for and my husband and I were both prepared and ready to welcome a child into our lives. I can only begin to imagine what it was like for Mary as she prepared to welcome Jesus.
Mary was young, not yet married and suddenly pregnant with the child of God. Personally, I have always through the angel Gabriel’s suggestion that she ‘not be afraid’ was a bit unreasonable given the circumstances.
I am sure she was an exceptional young woman, but she still must have been pretty terrified. Imagine her relief when she arrives at Elizabeth’s house, and is greeted with a blessing. ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ Imagine her joy. Is it little wonder that it is at this moment she breaks out in her now famous song of praise to God?
30 December: Christmas 1
The time for preparation is over. The Christ Child has come again and now we find ourselves in the space in between. The quiet time between Christmas and New Year when it seems, everything, except the boxing day sales, has ground to a halt. So, what do we do now? Go shopping? Ponder how to make Christmas bigger and better next year? Think about all the things that could have happened at Christmas and didn’t? Start to count the days until life as we know it returns to normal?
Paul’s letter to the Colossians gives us some good advice as we ponder what to do in this in between time. Paul suggests that, instead of going shopping and grabbing a bargain that is not really a bargain or dwelling on what did or didn’t go right over Christmas lunch, we take time to ‘clothe ourselves with love’, to forgive one another and to be thankful. And in doing all of this to let the peace of Christ rule our hearts.
So take time in this space between. Take some time to read the scripture. Re-visit the story of the birth of Christ or read the psalms. Take time to sing if you want to- loudly or softly -whatever is your personal reference.
Take time to remember that the peace of the Christ Child lives in you and use this peace to carry you into the New Year.
These Lectionary Reflections were prepared by Rev. Danielle Hemsworth-Smith