26th November 2022
Reflection (readings follow on below)
Is Advent just a precursor for Christmas or is it a season with its own focus and purpose?
Advent Sunday marks the beginning of the Church’s year. Whilst with the secular New Year one focuses on new beginnings, fresh starts, transformative resolutions, the traditional themes for Advent are death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Another view of Advent is to see it as a time to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ with a focus on both the nativity of Jesus and his second coming. Other themes that Christians observe are hope, peace, joy, and love.
Maybe Advent is both a time to make a fresh start – to repent and realign our daily lives with God – and a time of hope for the coming of Jesus through whom we once again receive the good news of the coming of the kingdom of God. And in just under a year’s time we will again celebrate the feast of – and our allegiance to – Christ the King.
Kingdoms centre round a castle or palace or capital city from which the rule of the kingdom extends. It is the place from where justice is meted out. It is the place of learning and fashion that shapes the culture of the kingdom. The passage from Isaiah talks of the mountain as the Lord’s house – the pinnacle from which God’s presence is spread abroad. This mountain has become the highest point – now everyone and every nation can see where God dwells and feel the influence of God’s rule. This renewed prominence draws the people to God in their desire to learn God’s ways which encompass peace and justice and reconciliation.
Jesus in his ministry drew people to himself as he preached the good news of the coming rule of the kingdom of God. His message was radical and transformative, calling on people to renew and reform their lives, following in the ways of God. Jesus also spoke about a day of judgement, a day of denouement when the success or failure of our lives will be tested. This day does not sound pleasant; it sounds as if it will come with pain and tears and suffering. Jesus likens it to the time of Noah and the flood. There was life after that catastrophic flood, a new beginning. There have been other times too when humanity as a whole or in various areas of the world, has faced similar cataclysmic situations – war, floods, hurricanes, financial collapse, pandemics – which have become a time of reckoning and from which life has re-emerged, often wisely, and hopefully with a renewed understanding of the right ways of Godly living. These times of reckoning will continue to occur as we continue to wrestle with our human inclination to trust in greed and self interest. So maybe each season of Advent should be seen as a challenge to face up to our unwholesome inclination, and a time to refocus on the right ways of living in harmony with God and God’s creation.
The passage from Isaiah has words of hope that God will arbitrate between peoples and nations to establish justice, such that the weapons of war can be reformed as tools of peace and prosperity. In our time our greatest threat comes from the use of fossil fuels and the release of excessive quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere causing global warming and climate change on a catastrophic scale. If we do not curtail this decisively and speedily, we know we face a near future in which vast numbers of plants, animals and people will suffer and die. It will be a a doomsday of our own making. The weapons that enable this crisis, are our patterns of consumption and our patterns of investment. We need to transform these to create sustainable and equitable patterns of consumption and to invest in renewable and sustainable technologies.
Advent is a season to reflect upon and amend the relationship we have with creation, with technology, with society, and with all that shapes our daily live. We need to focus on those ways which will establish a way of live that reflects God’s will, and to share that so that it is a world wide transformation.
We should not wait for the climax to be reached before we reform our lives in line with God’s way. Now is the time to be ready. Now is the time to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’!
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!
1 I was glad when they said to me, *
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Now our feet are standing *
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity with itself;
4 To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord, *
the assembly of Israel,
to praise the Name of the Lord.
5 For there are the thrones of judgment, *
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
“May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.
8 For my brethren and companions’ sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.
9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, *
I will seek to do you good.”
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”