We celebrate three new years in the Methodist Church, January 1st, September 1st and the beginning of Advent (November 27th this year). Advent is the start of the liturgical year as we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming into the world.
The themes of Advent are more subtle and reflective than those of Christmas. In Advent we recognise the longing for things to change and to be better. This is a longing which exists in all human hearts and we pray for God to do his work in the world so that our hopes may be realised. It is a season where we have one eye on the suffering in our world and the other eye on God, praying for his kingdom to come and looking for signs of his action in the world. It is a season of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’. The ‘now’ is when we recognise through faith that God is very near and active in our lives. The ‘not yet’ is when we recognise that there is more to come. We look forward to that new age when God shall be fully known and his glory seen by all.
Advent is, therefore, an important season, not least because it deals with Christian themes which are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it often gets forgotten or drowned out by the noise and bustle of Christmas. People like the celebration of Christmas without the rather dour or downbeat bit which precedes it. Obviously it suits the commercial interests in our world to focus exclusively on Christmas and so the advertising and the lights all begin at the start of November. The season of Advent gets swallowed up in shopping and school nativity plays.
How then do we recover Advent through all the noise of Christmas? We can do it through our personal prayers and we can look at biblical passages associated with Advent. We can also benefit from the wisdom of our hymn writers while praying for a world in need of God.
Perhaps it is our hymn writers who, with wonderful economy of words, best express the meaning and spirituality of advent. I end, therefore, with two verses from one of the new hymns in our hymn book. (written by Jan Berry.)
Praise to the God who waits with us
for hope and joy to reign,
who shares our suffering and our loss,
embodied in our pain.
Praise to the God who comes to bring
comfort to all who mourn.
The whole creation ‘Glory’ sings
as Christ the light is born.
With best wishes for the advent and Christmas season,
Revd. David Godfrey
An introductory booklet