You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
It was a bright crisp day in December. The tall buildings cast long shadows across the street. Rueben and his mates were kicking a football about when an old, smartly dressed, man approached. “I’m looking for the Feinstein’s home,” he said “Can you direct me.” Of course Rueben could; it was his home. “Follow me” he said.
At the door he called out: “Ma, Visitor” before running back to his game. Mother bustled to the door wiping her hands on her apron. Looking at the visitor she stiffened. What was a smartly dressed gent like this doing here? Was he the new landlord intending to put up the rent? “I wish to speak with your daughter the old man said handing Mother a card. On it she read ‘A.A.Gabriel. Communications Director.' Clearly not a man to be trifled with, but who was he? To be polite, she said, “Come in. Have some tea and perhaps you’d like a cake, I‘ve just baked some.” The old man thanked her, came in and sat by the fire. “Mary” she called out, “Come down we’ve a visitor” Mary had been looking at some magazines choosing a dress she dreamed of wearing for her forthcoming wedding to Joseph. She sighed but did as Mother had asked. As she entered the room the old man stood up and addressed her rather strangely, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you” he said. What an odd way of speaking, she thought, I wonder who he is. But Mother now knew exactly who he was although had no idea of his proposition. Sensing Mary’s apprehension he went on, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. He has asked me to put a proposition to you.” Found favour with God? Her mind was racing now! What could God want from her? ”You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” said the old man. “You’ve got to be joking,” laughed Mary, nervously; and yet there was something about this man. He didn’t seem the sort to joke about something important like that. “But I am a virgin,” she protested, “Really I am Mum. I’ve not let Joseph near me.” Turning to the old man she asked “What will Joseph say? He won’t marry me if I am pregnant!” “Don’t worry about the details,” said the old man rather testily, “Everything will be taken care of. I will call on Joseph to explain things. You can leave it all in God’s hands.” With that promise Mary made up her mind. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” “Excellent” said the old man making a note in the little notebook he drew from his pocket. Now, I must be getting along. So much to do! Oh, by the way, did you know your cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant? I saw her the other day. I think she would welcome a visit from you” With that he got up, thanked Mrs Feinstein for the tea and cake and left.
What does God want from you today? More importantly, will you accept His invitation as Mary did?
As Anglicans, the Sunday before Advent is colloquially known to us as ‘Stir up Sunday’ from the first words of the Collect for the day: Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the will of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Traditionally it was the day when Mother would make the Christmas pudding. Once the pudding bowl came out and the ingredients assembled on the kitchen worktop you knew Christmas was not too far off. Everything was in the bowl, so the children would be invited to take turns in stirring the mixture. Plenteous fruit was stirred into the Christmas pudding! Finally Father would come into the kitchen with a small supply of silver three penny pieces which he would ceremoniously drop into the bowl. The mixture was then tipped onto a muslin cloth, tied with string and placed in a saucepan of boiling water, there to steam for what seemed ages. The rich and inviting smell of the pudding cooking permeated the house. Preparations for Christmas had started! The next step would be to find the crib and make the decorations. Not that anything would be put out yet, of course, but the excitement was in the air!
In the same way, Advent is the time for preparation for the coming of the Christ child. Let us bring forth plenteous good works this Christmas as we go through Advent
In recent years a new date has appeared on the calendar, Black Friday. It is the day for the worship of material possessions. That worship is made easier by the fact that you don’t even need to leave your house to visit the temple to the god Mammon as it can all be done on-line!
Throughout the Old Testament we read of tribes and peoples worshiping graven images, even before the golden calf Aaron set up whilst Moses was away speaking with God. In Roman times every house had a shrine to some god or another. Indeed, there was a temple to every god you could think of at each street corner. In demanding worship of the Sun God, Sol Invictus, the Emperor Aurelis, was demanding worship of himself, since he was regarded as the direct descendant of that god. Whilst worship of the emperor is no longer usually required,( although I do worry sometimes at the amount of hero worship we give to our sportsmen and women, our film “stars”, and TV “personalities”), yet we still worship the great god Mammon, the acquisition of riches, possessions, material goods. Just look at the advertisements screaming at us to buy the latest ‘must have’ gizmos. But do you really need them? Can you not be satisfied with what you have, with what God has given you? I return to Jesus’ words that I have quoted often in the past: Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Matthew 6:28-29(AKJV)
If money is burning a hole in your pocket so that you really need to spend it, why not consider those for whom the material riches promised on Black Friday are but a far off dream, the poor, the homeless, indeed all those in need. They need your generosity far more than the corporate giant retailers.
But whilst giving money to a charitable institution, think also of generosity of spirit. After all, there are those around you who would welcome your time, your compassion. It maybe something simple; perhaps a quick hug, a kind word, or a cup of coffee for the homeless man on the street, but it may be more, much more. Whatever you have to give, be it cash or compassion, give it now, not just from spare change but real giving. ‘And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: Mark 12:42-43(AKJV)
Finally, remember Jesus’ message: Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40 (AKJV)
This coming Sunday I will read the final Epistle of the liturgical year at St Mary Magdalene. The church year has come to an end.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years