Church of England Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham Ordsall and Retford Saint Michael

Homily for Sunday 28th November 2021 - Advent Sunday

Homily for Advent Sunday by Deacon David Bean

Advent! That season of waiting and preparation. Perhaps the most overlooked, disregarded season in the church calendar. Because this is a season of waiting – something that many of us are not very good at.

I confess that in all sorts of ways I am terrible at waiting. If I am in a waiting room, I start to get anxious. If I am waiting for a slightly late running train, I start fretting about my connection. My end of curacy report has gone in to the diocese a few weeks go and I am still waiting to hear what comes next, and I find myself grumbling (to myself!), “Come on Bishop! How long can it take!”

I think I get this tendency from my late mother. As a kid, if I was running later (I was always running late!) she would say, “Oh hurry up, David. It's like waiting for Christmas!”

Like waiting for Christmas. That's certainly not something that we are good at.

If you were out and about last weekend for the Market and the light switch on, you will know that as far as Retford town centre is concerned it is already Christmas. Last Sunday morning in the Square we even sang carols! Not something that my vicar would have allowed before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, when I was young.

And because we are, collectively, so bad at waiting for Christmas, delaying gratification, not happy to rest in the moment, then that turns our understanding of “preparation” as nothing more than “getting ready for Christmas.” Ordering the turkey, writing the cards, trimming the tree, shopping, gift wrapping.

Traditionally, like Lent, this season was observed as a time of fasting and prayer in preparation for the coming festival. That is why, like Lent, the church is dressed in purple, for repentance.

Why are we waiting? Oh why are we waiting? There has to be more about it than waiting to celebrate an anniversary of the birth of Jesus, long ago.

Advent – adventus – means “coming”. During Advent, the church has traditionally remembered Christ's first coming, the birth of the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and has anticipated his second coming in glory, when, as the words of the old Carol reminds us, “then at last our eyes shall see him, through his own redeeming blood.”

So that is what we are preparing for; as the alternative Collect for today put it:-

Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin
to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

- we are preparing to meet Christ.

But there are other senses in which we meet Christ, not just when we get to heaven or at his second coming.

We encounter Christ in Scripture. In prayer. In the Eucharist. And through encountering Christ in other people – in each other, in our neighbour, in the poor, the marginalised, the rough sleeper... and, we are reminded forcibly this week, in the face of the refugee...

In the Gospel reading for Advent Sunday, Jesus implores us to “Be alert at all times.” Alert to his coming, alert to his presence in others, alert to his dawning kingdom,

This Advent may we be faithful in prayer, expectant and watchful for the signs of Christ's presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us.