Friday 1st December 2023
Preparing for Advent
Today is the last Friday in the Church’s year, and we have now come to the end of the current series of reflections on the subject of preparing for Advent.
Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have shared some thoughts on the idea that Advent is a season which can help to move us from living lives dominated by fear to living lives grounded on love. Christmas is all about the gift of God’s love in Jesus; and during Advent we prepare ourselves to receive that gift anew.
There are many ways in which we can do this work of spiritual preparation. We might choose to spend some time reflecting on our lives – what makes us joyful? Where are the sadnesses in our life? What might God be wanting to say to us as we reflect on the ups and downs of life? We might want to look at some passages from the Bible, especially passages from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and the accounts of the Nativity found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. There is also much food for thought in the words and music of the traditional hymns and carols which are sung at this time of year.
I have mentioned that Advent is a time when we ask God to help us to move from lives based on fear to lives based on love. It is a journey we all need to take – as individuals, as communities, and as churches. But the journey is far from easy : it can be hard to discern the right way forward, and there can be a strong temptation to return to the familiar fears which have shaped and given structure to our lives in years past. Furthermore, the journey towards love is not just a matter of letting go of the hurts and pains of the past. It is also about embracing the possibility of God’s future. So it is not enough simply to let go of fear. We also need to be willing to receive the gift of God’s love in Jesus.
As I write these words, I’m thinking of the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus. The Wise Men were willing to leave the familiar behind them, and to journey into the unknown, led only by the star of God’s love. The journey to Bethlehem must have taken many weeks, perhaps months. In our imaginations, let us join the Wise Men in their journey across the desert. What shall we give to the baby Jesus when we reach our journey’s end? “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man I would do my part, yet what I can I give him : give my heart”. May this Advent be a time when, once again, we give our hearts to Jesus, in trust and love and joy.