Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote ‘Life in a prison cell reminds me of Advent – one waits and hopes, potters about, but in the end what we do is of little consequence, for the door is shut and bolted, it can only be opened from the outside.’
Advent is a time of watching and waiting for the door of our hearts to opened by Jesus. A
time of preparation to meet with God, who sets us free from the prison of our human messes. Our reading today tells us to keep awake and alert - to be like watchmen. To develop a way of looking at the world to see the signs of where God is working and to join with The Holy Spirit in the dance of love, hope and joy.
Advent falls in Winter, bringing darkness and it is all too easy to think of doom and gloom, particularly in these times of Covid 19 as we go into Tier 2. Some even believe we are in end times but Jesus tells us that only God the Father knows when Jesus will come again.
Advent is a time of waiting, to celebrate Jesus coming into our world as a human being and also reflecting on the hope of his second coming with great power and glory. We live in God’s kingdom in the here and now and are also aware of the yet to come. We see signs of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We see the terror and splendour of God, whose nature is both justice and love. The Taize chant reminds us to wait for the Lord whose day is near, wait for the Lord be strong, take heart. To perceive the signs and wonders that happen when the earth is seemly dormant but is gathering strength for its future harvest. In the same way our unique gifts are nurtured within us in the quiet times we spend with God. Let us practice mindfulness, by being in the here and now, watching, waiting, feeling and seeing God’s presence around and within us. How often have we been too busy and caught up in our own ways to see God’s ways, the signs of his mighty power and presence? This Advent, God will work within us if we let him into our hearts.
I love the Advent wreath that appears in Church on Advent Sunday (today) with its many symbolisms. It is a circle of evergreen with 5 candles, usually 3 purple and I pink, representing the 4 Sundays leading to Christmas, and 1 white candle representing the light of Christ to be lit on Christmas Day. The colour purple signifies royalty and reminds us that Christ is king of our lives and the world, as we celebrated last week. Each week we light a candle to remind us of Biblical people who prepared for the coming of Christ. Today we traditionally think about the Patriarchs: Abraham, the founding father of our faith and David, the ancestor king in whose city Jesus was born. Both Abraham and David waited and watched. David, the youngest of several brothers, was a shepherd boy and spend much of his time outside watching his sheep and God’s creation. He observed the ways of the wild animals as he protected his sheep and learnt how to use a catapult. A skill he later used to kill the giant Goliath to protect his country.
Abraham was told by God that he would be father of nations and have as many offspring as the grains of sand. His wife Sarah was barren and they waited years before she conceived at the age of 80 and Abraham 100. No wonder Sarah laughed when God’s messengers foretold this! However what is impossible for us, as human beings, is possible for God. His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. His time is not our time and he is always working all things to good, often through many generations.
On Advent Sunday a new liturgical year begins and today we move from year ‘A’ to year ‘B’. Perhaps we can incorporate a ‘Plan B’ into our lives as we wait for the pandemic restrictions to be managed, for a vaccine, and use this time to let Christ’s strength enrich us with every kind of spiritual gift. During the first Advent Mary was in a bubble with her cousin Elizabeth and Zachariah and Jesus, the light of the world, was growing in the darkness of her womb.
Just one final thought on this Advent Sunday - to make an Advent Wreath for our homes. The television programme ‘Blue Peter’ first showed how to make one at home from wire coat hangers and tinsel in 1964. This became one of the program's most iconic features and was repeated for several years. Let’s go for it as a symbol of our faith and hope!