REFLECTIONS FROM WILSON HOUSE

Advent and Christmas 2014

What is Advent?

Society tends to understand a little of the true meaning of Christmas but virtually nothing about Advent.  The danger as Christians is that we can end up doing the same.  In our rush to get to the manger, we are tempted to downplay or ignore the Advent themes that the church has long believed are necessary so that we can come to the cradle in the right way.

Advent means “Coming”.  The Advent season includes the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas morning.  During these 4 weeks candles are lit to remind us of God’s promise to send Jesus, the light of the world.  A fifth candle is lit on Christmas morning to remind us of the wonderful day of Jesus’ birth- God taking on human flesh and living among us.

As well as these things, traditionally Advent has also been a time to focus on another promise of God- the promise that His Son Jesus Christ will come to earth from heaven a Second time as the King and Judge of all the earth.  Therefore advent is a time for us to reflect on the truth that Jesus is coming back and to ask ourselves questions like- “If He came today would I be ready?”  and “How can I be ready for Jesus’ Second coming?”

1st Sunday in Advent

To help us reflect on these themes, the church traditionally begins the advent season by reading one of the Apocalyptic (End of time) sayings of Jesus which in Matthew, Mark and Luke come near the end of Jesus’ ministry just prior to his arrest and crucifixion.  Advent begins by looking at the end of all things when King Jesus will return to judge the world in truth and fairness.

Why does the church do this?  If Jesus is not coming again then there is very little to celebrate about His arriving here in the first place.  If there is no future judgement of sin (all that is wrong) then the birth of Jesus is reduced to a sentimental event that took place a long time ago but has no real relevance to our lives now or in the future.

2nd Sunday in Advent

Traditionally on the second Sunday of Advent the church will remember John the Baptist, the man who came to get everybody ready for the first coming of Jesus.  John was a preacher.  His message was simple but unpopular.  He told people, “God’s King is coming, you need to get ready- you need to repent” (change your attitude towards God and change your lifestyle in light of that).

Why does the church do this?  The most important reason Jesus came to earth was to die on the cross to take the judgement that we deserve for all the wrong things we say and think and do and because we often live without any reference to God (Sin).  By listening to John the Baptist and by reflecting on our own sin, we will appreciate more fully why Jesus came to earth and died.  We will also be more prepared to meet Him if He should come back in our lifetime or when our earthly life comes to an end.

3rd and 4th Sundays in Advent

Traditionally the Third and Fourth Sundays of Advent focus on the unfolding story of God’s promise to send Jesus being fulfilled in the lives of the characters in the Christmas story.  This might be the angel visiting Mary and telling her she will become pregnant with the Christ child.  It might be the angel coming to Joseph and telling him the same story!  It might be the angel appearing to Simeon and telling him that his wife will give birth to a boy called John who will prepare the way for Jesus- the great King who will come to rescue people from their sin.

Why does the church do this?  It is only as we reflect on these themes (Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the earth, we need to repent in order to be ready, Jesus came to die to take the judgement for our sin so that we can be God’s friends) that we can celebrate Christmas in the right way.  If we have understood these things and if as a result we have cried out to Jesus to rescue us from our sins we will be able to sing “Joy to the world the Lord has come!” with real meaning, real hope and real joy.  That is my hope and prayer for us all this Christmas!

What will Advent and Christmas look like in Fisherwick?

Over the next 4 Sunday mornings we will be reflecting on these Advent themes in our services.  We will also be creating a few opportunities where we can share this great news with our family and friends who perhaps haven’t yet fully grasped these things.  On the 7th December we will be hosting the Marie Curie carol service at 3pm.  On the 14th December our children and young people will lead us in a special all-age Advent service about Mary.  On the 21st December we will be having a special all-age ‘Christingle’ service where we’ll all get to make a Christmas decoration, which reminds us of the good news about Jesus.  On Sunday evenings we will be thinking about the ‘Songs of Christmas’ that we find in the bible.  On the evening of the 14th December there will be an SNL Christmas special.  On the evening of the 21st December Neale and the Choir will be leading us in our Festival of Carols and Lessons.  On Christmas Eve there will be opportunity to celebrate a midnight communion.  All of this will climax on Christmas morning when we celebrate the birth of our Saviour in a short all- age service starting at 10.00am.  On the 28th December Seth will be preaching on the theme of ‘looking back and looking forward.’  On January 4th, as we begin 2015 and think about our New Year’s Resolutions we will begin two New Series.  In the mornings we will be doing a series called, “Back to Basics” in which we will examine various topics including, What is a Christian?  How can I be sure?  What is a Quiet time?  How can I read the bible for all its worth?  Why can the Christian life be tough? How does God guide us?  In the evenings we will be working our way through one of the most significant letters ever written in human history- Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Let me encourage you to pray for friends and family and to invite them to join you at one of these special services over the Christmas period.

Thank You and Happy Christmas!

 

May I also take this opportunity to thank you all for helping Emma, Erin, Patrick, Conor and myself to settle in and for your warm and friendly welcome.  Thank you all sincerely for your commitment to our Sunday services, your prayers and encouragement, and your active participation in all the different aspects of church life.  It is a joy for me to have such a willing band of colleagues, each playing their own part in enabling church life to function happily and effectively.  I look forward in anticipation to see what God will do through us as we work together. I hope you all have a very, very happy Christmas.

 

Rev Michael