Thursday, 27 November 2014

Advent: Christ is Near

On a brief visit to London at the October half-term, I learned a little about the Cardinal Hume Foundation, based at Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral, and providing practical support for the Homeless, and those who are vulnerably housed. While we will be supporting the work of Crisis, providing a similar service around the Country in our Christmass Retiring collections, I would like to ‘borrow’ a saying of Cardinal Hume’s, and use it as our Advent theme this year:

In Christ: Each Person Matters. No Human Life is ever redundant.

Because Jesus took our human flesh, all of us have the potential to shine with the Light of Christ, to be fully human, fully alive. ADVENT is a time of practical and spiritual celebration for the great Festival of Christmass. Advent is a time of journeying and a time of pilgrimage, strengthening our call as baptized Christians to walk in the light of Christ. Some will keep Advent as a ‘Little Lent’, with an element of fasting and penance. Yet above all, this is a time of expectation and joy. The Advent candles show us the grounds for our joy, as we look for the Light of Christ.

The first red candle is a symbol of Hope and represents the Patriarchs such as Abraham and David.
The second candle stands for God's Peace, as we are reminded of the prophets, especially Isaiah,          who looked for the Messiah.
The third candle is for 'Love'. John the Baptist baptized Jesus, who is perfect Love.
The fourth candle symbolizes 'Joy'. We are able to share in the joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary,           Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church.
The fifth white candle, is for the Christ Child, and is lit at the Eucharist on Christmass Day.

Advent Sunday is often described as the Church’s New Year, for on that day we begin a fresh cycle of Readings from the Scriptures. This Year we enter Year B of the Lectionary (Book of Readings), the Year of St Mark’s Gospel. John Mark was a Jew and, according to Paul's letter to the Colossians, was cousin to Barnabas. He is mentioned in Acts, accompanying Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey. Afterwards, he went to Cyprus with Barnabas and to Rome with first Paul and then Peter. Mark's gospel is generally regarded as the earliest and was most likely written whilst he was in Rome. It was probably based as much on Peter's preaching of the good news as on Mark's own memory. Mark's gospel has a sharpness and an immediacy about it and he does not spare the apostles in noting their weaknesses and lack of understanding that Jesus the Christ would suffer for the world's redemption. Sharing in the glory of the resurrection means sharing in the giving of self, even to death.

Picking up on the description of the four creatures in the Book of Revelation, Mark’s symbol is a winged Lion. Our Coptic Christian Brothers and Sisters in Egypt claim him as the founder of the Church in Alexandria, while the Medieval Republic of Venice claims to hold his relics.

I hope you enjoy your Advent! It’s easy to get distracted in Advent. It’s too easy to let the busyness and the unnecessary commercialism be a substitute for what this time is really about. 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. You may wish to use one of these collects every day in your own prayers

For Advent

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

For the 12 days of Christmass

Lord Jesus Christ,
your birth at Bethlehem
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth:
accept our heartfelt praise
as we worship you,
our Saviour and our eternal God. Amen

Please pray that Christmass will be a true hope for humanity, and that the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will. Remember all families, may parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith. Thank You for all you do for the Life of God’s Church here in Elland, May the Lord bless you, and may you know the peace of the Christ-Child in your hearts, this Christmass-time.

May the Lord when he comes, find us watching and waiting, Amen.