Friday, 4 December 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we enter December we also enter another period of uncertainty with the re-introduction and tightening of the tier system across the country. There is much confusion around what is and what is not legally permissible. However, within our Church community, I would like to urge us all to not let the reported levels of confusion and discontent get in the way of our journey through Advent.
Advent is a time of preparation and repentance. Advent is a season during which we are given the opportunity to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s Incarnation by reflecting on how our lives compare with the standards laid down during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Advent is a moment in the year when we should be giving ourselves time to recognize our shortcomings, both spiritual and temporal, and do something about them.
This Sunday’s gospel reading is taken from the beginning of Mark (Mark 1:1-8). In these few verses we are introduced to John the Baptist, the one who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of there being a forerunner who would prepare the way for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. John’s role in fulfilling this prophecy had been thirty years in the making. Then, we are told, he emerged from the Judean wilderness to bring a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. That phrase, repentance for the forgiveness of sins, has a very formal, ecclesiastical ring to it but, in reality, it is nothing to do with the formality of the established Christian Church, no matter what their denomination. Repentance for the forgiveness of sins is really about our capacity to adopt, like John, a truly humble approach to the way we live our lives. John knew that no matter how many people might be flocking to hear his preaching and to receive his baptism in the waters of the River Jordan, he was going to have to step aside and diminish in order that the Son of God might bring salvation into this world.
During these challenging and confusing times there is hardly a moment of any day when people are not complaining or lamenting. All of that negativity is centred around the word ‘disruption’. Our lives have been disrupted but that need not be the end of the story. We are not going out of our homes as much, we are not able to conduct the normal round of social engagements associated with December, we are not even likely to be seeing close family members over the ‘festive season’. Yes, our lives have been disrupted but that need not be the end of the story. As we journey toward Christmas 2020 we have been given an unexpected chance to think about the lives we lead, to consider what is really important in our lives, to reflect upon our attitudes towards keeping those with whom we share this life safe, to show repentance for the forgiveness of our sins.
Over the last nine months there has been much talk of damage to our mental health. Undoubtedly there are those who have struggled with isolation, but there has also been a blossoming of local support groups and individuals who have demonstrated a genuine love for those around them. In our communities there has been a real sense of people, and especially those in need of help, being noticed rather than overlooked or ignored. Let us focus on the positive and use that as the springboard for our Advent journey. Let us stop spreading the negative earthly message and let us proclaim the joyous message of our coming Saviour. Let us, like John the Baptist, step out of the spotlights we have erected around ourselves and acknowledge that we will soon be celebrating the coming of one whose sandals we are not fit to untie.
With every blessing to you all,