With the first BIG storm of winter, Arwen, blowing a powerful northerly across much of the UK, bringing with it some snow; it is a fitting reminder that we are on the cusp of Advent. Sunday marks the beginning of this holy season of prayer and preparation. But what are we to prepare for? Is the modern- day outworking of the church’s suggestion one of preparation; acted through panic buying of turkeys (yet another shortage?), rushing to put up the tree and making sure we have at least two tins of quality street in, in case any of the neighbours pop round?
How do you prepare for the arrival of a baby, who was actually God, but chose to die, to somehow save us all, in a story that played out over two thousand years ago?
Whilst physical preparations are both essential and fun, it can be harder to find the time to focus on our spiritual wellness; to check in with where we are at and how we really feel as we turn into the last few weeks of the old year. Some tasks demand our time, because others are waiting for or depending on our input, and so we feel accountable. But who is depending on us checking in with our souls, with our inner self, ensuring we nurture and tend to the part of us that resides deep within?
When we connect with ourselves, we are connecting with God.
When we connect with God, we are connecting with creation.
When we connect with creation, we are connecting with God.
When we connect with God, we connect with ourselves…
…you get the picture!
The truth is Jesus came into this world, as a baby, to bring light to the people: our kind of people, your kind of people, everyone’s kind of people. He didn’t want to be all showy, that’s not his style, instead he came to build a lasting relationship with this whole diverse and gloriously crazy planet. In short – he showed up – and that’s all we need do. Have you ever felt like life was empty, or difficult, or pointless and you’ve prayed / cried out and not felt heard? I have, on many occasions, but these days I have learnt to look to the stars,… or the trees,… or the wind. I have learnt to look for the signs that God is at work in her kingdom and that all is well. At first it is hard to observe anything of note when you are stressed. But, I have discovered, you can hold two truths within you at the same time; such as: I feel totally sad right now and I also feel ecstatic that I saw a town fox (in daylight) and was able to observe him unnoticed for a time.
Advent is about the glass that’s half full and the glass that’s half empty. It is a reconciliation of the life that you lead, and the life offered in Christ Jesus. In this week’s reading from Luke 21: 25-36 it’s all about reading the visible signs of the earth and keeping watch for God’s truth:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25-28) NRSV
I see no condemnation in the passage, but rather an invocation to never lose hope and to stand on the biblical promises of old: promises the Gospels echo from many of the OT books such as Joel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. There is real tenderness and concern that we may become lost or swallowed up in the stuff of life. Then, feeling so consumed by our judgement of self or others, be unable to raise our heads up enough to see Christ’s loving gaze fall upon us. Let us, in our advent preparations start by observing God in our everyday environment and in others and begin to document all the beauty and good around us. As we move through the season may we begin to see that Jesus is indeed depending on us connecting with our spiritual selves, because in the preparing of our hearts lies the path to completeness and the welcoming of a babe. On a recent beach walk I picked up the usual sea glass and pottery, but one special piece caught my eye. I like to think of it as my Christmas partridge come to say hello; although, if Jeremiah 17: 11 is anything to go by, perhaps I am being sent a message! What signs will you observe this week that remind you that you are known, seen, and loved by God?
May the blessing of God be with you all as we turn towards advent: a season of peace, joy and hope, such hope. Amen.