This morning’s service: some thoughts from John

Advent181

I loved ‘O come O come Emmanuel’ which we sang this morning, accompanied by the seven traditional ‘Magnificat Antiphons’ read by Ken Walker. The first candle of Advent was lit. It was the beginning of the new church year, a time of reflection in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and I sensed a touch of peace.

As I posted yesterday, Duncan recommended some books of reflections on poems and paintings to be used through Advent.  I was tempted to click instantly and buy one on  Amazon, but I paused to question myself.  What was the motive behind my urge to click?  It was, I think, the desire to sense again the presence and love of God.

Looking back over my life there has been a pattern of longing for God, and seeking new things  – new books, new resources, new experiences – which will make God somehow real. But what I’m always reminded of is that the God whom I seek is already within me.  I have that which I desire.

And God shows Godself unexpectedly, in whispers and prompts of love and grace,  like this morning as we listened to the old carol.

Not that there is no room for books and poems, for paintings and meditations and reflection, for Bible passages. These are all ways in which the God within assures us of the divine presence, and these can help still our hearts so that we discern God’s speaking.  But we can’t command God to bless us with encounter; we wait expectantly until once again we can say ‘I feel thy finger and find thee.’

Rhythms and patterns can be helpful in our lives. The rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest is healing. There’s daily rhythm of rising, working, mealtimes, rest, sleep. The yearly rhythm of the seasons by which we mark the passing of our lives. The medieval Christians had another cycle – the cycle of the Church Calendar, beginning shortly before Christmas, with Advent, continuing through Lent and Easter and Pentecost.  It was a journey through the Christian story. Each year, people lived afresh the reality of the story.  Many Christians still find this a helpful rhythm, a helpful way of remembering the great story of which we are part, and of the One in whose footsteps we walk.

And we travel together. Duncan emphasised this morning at Communion that every meal we share as Christians is a kind of communion, a celebration of oneness in Christ. We talk about the church being family – and so we are.  Reflection on Advent reminds us that as God came incarnate in Jesus, so Jesus comes to each of us not just through the inner voice, but in one another. We are called to love one another as Jesus loves us.  There is much love shown in our Church, but sometimes our own agendas and prejudices stifle our love for one another. This Advent, may our love and compassion for one another be untrammelled and free; may the Spirit of the Father flow out from our hearts as she flowed out from the heart of Jesus.

As I was getting ready to go out this afternoon to go to a book group at the Eastgate Centre, a thought sprang to mind.  I’m not sure if it was one of these thoughts sown by the Father with sometimes mischievous love, but it may have been.  It was this ‘enjoy today!’  And I stood outside the front door, and breathed deeply and smiled.

I know I’m often too busy, doing stuff, seeking each day as a challenge to choose joy, living in the light of a joy which I do not always feel, to show love and grace, to use time meaningfully. It’s not that these choices are will-driven – I seek to be open to the Spirit to make the burden of living for Jesus light. (As I type this, it seems I’m making myself out to be terribly holy. I’m not, in the sense that I struggle and fail and lose sight of God a heck of a lot. But I am holy, in the sense that we are all holy, God’s precious, precious children.)

Anyway, here I am living my disciplined days. And then God says: ‘enjoy today.’

‘Excuse me! Don’t you realise I’ve got stuff to do?

And God says again ‘enjoy today.’

And I’m sure God says this to us every day. ‘Enjoy today! You are my child! Live in hope!’

‘O come, o come Emmanuel.’

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