Sermon for Christmas Day 2020 Hurstpierpoint College Chapel
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined” So speaks the Prophet Isaiah to the people almost three thousand years ago.
I had never experienced what it was really like to walk in darkness, until I walked a stretch of the Camino de Santiago in October last year. I had anticipated long, sunny days, but instead I spent a lot of time walking in darkness and in rain. I hadn’t appreciated that Spain’s coast is significantly west from where we are, yet it shares the Continental time zone. Hence, the first three hours walk every day I walked in darkness.
I would have certainly been surprised, if not terrified, if I had suddenly seen a great light. So I can imagine a little bit what the shepherds must have felt that night when they saw a great light, and probably even more so when they saw that in the light there was an angel. No matter how much the angel told them not to be afraid, that was probably exactly what they were.
Sermon for Advent Sunday at Holy Trinity Hurstpierpoint Sunday 29th November 2020, Isaiah 64.1-9 and Mark 13.24-end
This Sunday, we mark the beginning of the season of Advent. Four Sundays until Christmas, and traditionally a time of preparation as we anticipate the Incarnation by prayer, the reading of Scripture and fasting. A time of waiting, during which we are invited to reflect on our readiness to celebrate the birth of Jesus. At the same time, during Advent, we are also invited to look ahead to the final coming of Christ as our judge and redeemer and our readiness for that.
Over the years, as society has grown more secular, we have lost some of the immediacy of these two aspects of Advent: the waiting and the judgement. For many of us, Christmas starts no longer on Christmas Eve, but on 1st December. We seem to have lost the ability to wait, as we live in a time where everything is available at the click of a button. We also live in a society that has become weary of the language of judgement, and the idea that we are accountable has become increasingly uncomfortable; a language we try to avoid.
This is how I probably have started most Advent sermons and reflections over the past few years. But this year is different. This year, we have been confronted with a time of waiting that we have not experienced before. This year, we have come to realise that we cannot get everything we want when we want it. At the same time, we are also become more acutely aware of the consequences of our actions. So maybe we need to be challenged too by that uncomfortable language of judgement.
For many of us – we who are not on the frontline in medicine, care or retail – the experience of the global pandemic could be described as a prolonged Holy Saturday. A time of waiting, without knowing what lies ahead of us; without being able to do very much. This inability to help is hard for many of us, whether we have children who we desperately want to help, or elderly relatives, or people we know who depend on help in our local communities.
I suspect that it is very much like the experience that the early disciples, Jesus’ friends and followers and his family had. Still in shock after the events on Good Friday, his sudden arrest followed by his brutal crucifixion, now there is nothing they can do.
Marlborough College Chapel Morning Address Advent: Simeon and Anna
As some of you who know me, may have realised by now: I am not very good at waiting. Fortunately, I have discovered since I have been here, that I am not the only one, as many of you are not very good at it either. Although, I guess, it does have something to do with age, so I should at least have learnt a bit by now.
The poem on which this reflection is based, Wait and See by Richard Bauckham, mentions two people, two very old people, who have spent their whole lives waiting. They are Simeon and Anna. Simeon and Anna are not a couple, but they are two individual people who lived at the time that Jesus was born, over two thousand years ago. What they do have in common, is that they were waiting for Jesus to be born. Simeon had been told in a dream or a vision that before he would die, he would see the Saviour of the world.
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!?”→