Advent is not only the time to prepare for Christmas, it is also the start of a new Church year. On New Year’s Day, 1st January, my sister, my parents and myself used to go and visit my grandmother. She was not always a ‘glass-half-full’ person to say the least. One year, as we arrived, the first thing she said was ‘It’s going to be a difficult year’. It quickly became our family mantra on New Year’s Day.
Of course, the sad truth about a prediction like this is that it may well become reality for those who expectantly wait for difficulty to arise. Not always: we may be pleasantly surprised by that which lies ahead of us, but our expectations do colour our experience.
Continue reading “Expect the unexpected”
The Feast of the Epiphany
A reflection for at the start of the New Year
On 6th January, we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. It is the twelfth day of Christmas, and so traditionally the last day of this season of celebration. Epiphany literally means manifestation or appearance. The Gospel set for this day is the well-known story of the journey of the wise men, who after having followed a star find and recognise the child in Bethlehem, bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
This is Matthew’s version of the Christmas story: no stable, donkeys or shepherds, but instead a star, wise men and gifts. It is a story full of signs and significance all pointing towards aspects of Jesus’ identity: a star signalling the cosmic significance of his birth, the gift of gold indicating his royal status, and myrrh to foreshadow his suffering.
Continue reading “Trust, expect and be generous”
Sermon St Mary’s Marlborough, 30th December 2018
First Sunday of Christmas: 1 Samuel 2.18-20, 26 and Luke 2.41-52
Traditionally, well, at least since the 1970s, this first Sunday after Christmas is often celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Family. As we hear about Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we are invited to see them as a model for all Christian families, and, I suppose inevitable, reflect in how far we live up to that standard. I think whoever had the idea of placing this particular celebration just after Christmas, either did not have a family, or had a good sense of humour, or was one of those people who had the perfect family – a person I have yet to meet!
Of course, hopefully, over the past few days, most of us will have had the opportunity to spend time with family, or families in some way or other. Time with children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, or with friends who have become like family. Time to celebrate, be together, and eat together – often a bit too much. But, no matter how much we have enjoyed our celebrations, I think we also realise that the perfect family – whatever that may look like – does not really exist. For many of us, this time will also remind us of the more painful moments in our lives, often connected with what has happened to those nearest to us, or between us and them.
Continue reading “Expect the unexpected”
An early Advent reflection, written for Marlborough’s Tower & Town
It is late November, and Advent will be upon us soon. Advent: a time of preparation for Christmas. However, for many of us, the preparations already started weeks ago. Looking at the shops, listening to the radio, and walking down the High Street, it feels more like Advent being the beginning of our Christmas celebrations, not a time of preparation and expectation.
Of course, there is a practical aspect to it. We need to give Royal Mail their time to deliver our cards, and those of us who are not on Amazon Prime, will have to get our Christmas presents in good time. We may also be worried that if we leave it too late, there will be no mulled wine, no mince pies, and no turkey left. Also, for many of us, the evenings fill up quickly: concerts, receptions and drinks parties. We’d better get our own event in the diary early, before people have already committed to something else. Continue reading “Christmas: Wait for it!?”
A sermon preached at Marlborough College on 28th January 2018
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple: Luke 2.22-40
Friday evening has always been my favourite evening of the week. Before I was a vicar, it meant it was the beginning of the weekend. When I became a vicar, it meant the only evening without meetings or sermons to write. And when I joint the College, it became my duty evening in New Court, on of the girls’ boarding houses. Certainly aided by the Housemistress’s hospitality and a glass of wine, I really enjoy the range of conversations you girls have in your houses, and the way in which you let tutors share in them. Continue reading “Wait, trust and see”
An early Advent Reflection
Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time.
Advent is a season of expectation, a time during which we wait and prepare for Christmas. It is also the beginning of a new Church year, so even more than other days, we are given a new beginning; we can make a new start.
As all of us have experienced, the reality does not always coincide with our expectation: more often than not it doesn’t. Whether it is our expectation of ourselves, our expectations of others, many a time, the reality is not as good as we had expected, and we can feel let down, again by ourselves or by others. It is an experience so common, that I don’t even think I need to give an example. Continue reading “Advent: Expectation vs Reality”