"Questions which never go away"
In this month of December, we begin to look forwards in anticipation to Christmas. Although many people will be excited by the prospect, there may also be increasing feelings of stress as the rush to make all the necessary preparations during the next four weeks begins to get more intense. For others there may be the additional pressure that Christmas may well be less extravagant this year because the financial crisis caused by COVID has hit them particularly hard.
However, even in these somewhat austere times, personal wealth makes the average British citizen appear like royalty when seen through the eyes of the citizens of Third World countries. The commercialization of the Christmas season has truly taken over in our modern society.
It is a great shame that in the annual Christmas rush, we so easily miss out the season of Advent, which is the time when we prepare and reflect upon Christ’s coming, not just at Christmas but also at the end of time. It is the time when we are challenged by the really deep questions of our earthly existence and of our relationship with God, through its traditional themes of heaven, hell, death and judgment.
Most of our Christmas parties are before Christmas. We celebrate most of our Christmas dinners before Christmas. We enjoy most of our carol singing before Christmas. We have all our Carol services and Christingle services before Christmas. All these activities diminish the importance of the season of Advent.
It’s rather like a couple choosing to go on their honeymoon and then returning tired and jaded for the wedding day itself. When we lose Advent in this way, we lose a real opportunity for spiritual growth, and of coming closer to God. We also avoid the really big questions which face every human being – “What is the purpose of life?” and “What hap- pens after our death?”
These are the questions which never go away and are constantly present in our inner being.
C S Lewis wrote that there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Your will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Your will be done.” This was very cleverly put by Lewis but it really is true that we fall into one category or the other. We either say an unconditional “yes” to God or, through the free-will that he has given us, we say “yes” to our own desires.
The Christian journey, which we all have to make, is quite simply the allowing the Holy Spirit to change us so that what we want for ourselves becomes the same as what God wants for us. In doing this, we become the people that he intended us to be. In this Advent season, we need give careful consideration to Lewis’s words and reflect upon whether we are the kind of people who say to God, “Your will be done,” or those to whom God says, “Your will be done.” If we can’t make room for God in Advent, then it is unlikely that we will make room for him at Christmas either.
The Christian journey, which we all have to make, is quite simply the allowing the Holy Spirit to change us so that what we want for ourselves becomes the same as what God wants for us.”
The world in which God was born as a human baby was very similar to the world, we find ourselves in today. People were wrapped up with their own concerns. The rich minority owned the majority of the world’s wealth. Palestine was occupied and oppressed by a foreign power. 2000 years ago, the world didn’t make room for God, “he came into his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:11)
The real message of Christmas is “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. It is so easy to leave Jesus in the man- ger at Christmas time, just as we put our decorations and crib back in their boxes for another year. Yes, he did come to us as a human baby but he didn’t stay that way. He grew up to share in our human likeness, our joys and our sorrows, our laughter and our pain. There isn’t anything about being a human being that God doesn’t understand. And why did God allow himself to be born as a human being? The answer is that it was his immeasurable love for each and every human being who lives, who has lived and who will be born in the future. When Nicodemus visited Jesus at night, Jesus told him, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In those words of Je- sus there are overtones of heaven, hell, death and judgment, the four themes of Advent, and which are even more explicit in the Collect for Advent.
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, Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
On the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”
May we follow his example of obedience in our lives, being diligent in our personal preparation through this season of Advent, so that we may truly enter into the real joy and happiness of Christmas.