Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Sunday's Mass was a truly uplifting experience. Not only did we sing some of our favourite Christmas hymns and carols - and yes, the choir were in fine voice - but Father Michael gave an inspiring sermon. In fact he has given me permission to use his theme in today's blog.
His question to us was quite simple, but still thought provoking. "Are you a Christian?" he asked. Well, of course I am! I am here after all, and I have attended all the Christmas services, I read my Bible and say my prayers. What more do you want? And that was his point. Anyone can read a dusty old book; anyone can repeat by rote a few prayers half remembered from childhood, and the church is open seven days a week with Morning and Evening services everyday. "What I am asking," he said,"is what have you done? How do people outside these walls know that you are a Christian? What difference have you made in the world?"
At the very beginning of the Bible we read that God created the earth and all that was in it and it was good. Then he created man, who was to be His steward but in fact promptly proceeded to mess things up; something he continues to do to this day! The polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, the Amazonian forests are being recklessly destroyed whilst man's steadfast reliance on fossil fuel hastens global warming with disastrous effects on the planet. If you need any further proof just look at the bush fires that have been burning out of control in Australia for some months now.
Yes, someone should do something about that but there is nothing I can do. I am just one man. True, but consider that a sixteen year old Swedish girl addressed the world leaders at the United Nations in New York on just this subject recently. So what is your excuse?
New Year's resolutions have a habit of being forgotten after 31 January, but this year please make a commitment to get out of that comfortable pew you have occupied for so many years and do something that will make a difference to the world . You are not called to do extraordinary things but to do ordinary things extraordinarily. So pick up a pen write a letter; go out and protest, just do something. After all remember 'faith without deeds is useless' James 2:20(NIV).
At this time of year there is so much to do to prepare for Christmas. It is so easy to get caught up in the commercial aspect of the season. But do we need all that stress?
This Sunday, the third in Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, a time when we take a break from the preparations for the coming, or second coming, of Our Lord. It is a day on which we rejoice that the Saviour is coming, as John the Baptist foretold.
At St Mary Magdalene the Advent candles are lit by one of the children in the congregation. This Sunday the joy of Gaudete Sunday permeated the church when the young lady chosen skipped down the aisle, holding firmly to mother's hand, to perform her task. At that moment a ray of sunshine burst through the stained glass windows illuminating the Advent candles. God was truly with us at that moment! Later after the service we learned that it was Father Peter's birthday. His age is a closely guarded secret but he did hint that he might not see 21 again! Oh and the sun was shining and the birds singing in the churchyard as we left. It was a really joyful day. Any worries, doubts or problems vanished from sight. Thanks be to God for His presence with us and for the glory of His Creation!
The Gospel reading for Advent Sunday tells of Jesus instructions to his disciples. He says: Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming (Matthew 24:32)
Fortunately the years when my day (and night!) was ruled by the alarm clock are in the distant past. Yet I can recall being woken sometime before dawn to snatch a bite of breakfast before dashing out to catch a train. Then the meetings, the appointments, the deadlines - always far too short! It seemed as if I was chasing my tail. Even when arriving home the telephone would ring so that tomorrow's meetings would continue to race around in my head. The Jones visit will mean an early start. It could be difficult. Have I got everything I need? Do I need to phone the office for this or that before I leave? Eventually an exhausted sleep would take over, until the wretched alarm clock woke me! Staying awake, then, was no problem - sleep was! No doubt you can recall times like that. Maybe you are still going through them.
The reading continues: Hold yourselves ready, therefore Matthew 24:44(a). And this is the key surely. Just as I needed to prepare for the next day's meetings all those years ago, so we must all prepare ourselves for the second coming of our Lord. Advent is just the time to do that. There are plenty of resources out there to help. But don't put your preparation off for too long. Remember: because the Son of man will come at a time you least expect him Matthew 24:44(b)
So, Be Prepared. And remember God will walk with you on your journey in faith, have no doubt of that!
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK