My worst experience with someone remaining awake was when Lilly, aged about two, stayed awake and screamed her head off all the way from the Pear Tree roundabout to Rock, in Cornwall. When we arrived at the end of the drive at the house where we were staying she promptly fell fast asleep. Should we wake or not then became the great parental dilemma. I think, despite all temptations to wake her, we let her sleep!
In Advent, or through Advent, we are invited to heighten our senses so that we are fully ready to receive our Lord at Christmas. Advent invites us to do many things. I would like to pick out three. We are invited to watch, to wait and to prepare.
One of the peculiarities of Christian ministry is that you end up doing a lot of watching, waiting and preparing. Waiting, watching and preparing takes place every time I work with a family who are anticipating a death. It also happens every time I work with a couple preparing for marriage of for the baptism of their child. I do an awful lot of watching, waiting and preparing. Sometimes its joyous, but often painful.
During Advent you are all invited to minister to yourselves as you watch, wait and prepare for Christmas.
Let’s start with watching: Advent is one of the church’s two penitential seasons. The other is Lent. In Advent and Lent the church asks us to review the state of our own hearts and consider where we fall short. Are we carrying deep within unresolved pains? Do we pander to our petty resentments? Are there any relationships in need of repair? Can I encourage you to think on these things this Advent.
Waiting can sometimes be a highly frustrating process. Learning to wait well is a profoundly counter-cultural virtue. Yet for Christians, waiting well is a vital skill. Waiting well, I think, has two dimensions to it: remembrance and hope. Remembrance involves looking backwards and seeing that which God has already done and giving thanks for the tough times he has brought us through. Hope implies looking ahead in the anticipation of something better to come. In Advent that better thing is Christmas, and in Lent it is Easter. Incarnation and resurrection. So this Advent can I also encourage you to learn the art of waiting well; remembering with gratitude and anticipating with hope.
Finally, preparing. For me preparing implies consciously thinking, but more importantly praying, in advance of the event to come: Christmas.
When we watch, wait and prepare we become the sort of people who are alert, or in spiritual terms alive. In the epistle St. Paul uses the word ‘revealing.’ Watching, waiting, preparing and praying I would want to suggest are the spiritual means through which the glory of the Lord is revealed. If we learn to watch, wait, prepare and pray, we will have a wonderful Christmas when it comes.
This year we have produced a daily pray card for use in Advent. It can be used either in the morning or the evening. It is designed to help you minister to yourselves, to keep watch over yourselves and wait in a spirit of anticipation as you prepare for that ‘happy morn.’ Please do take one with you at the end of the service and use it each and every day as you watch, wait and prepare for Christmas, Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown