Advent Sunday: A personal view!

(I Know I’m a week or so Late!)

Image from Pexels

That was my song for Advent 2022. Its lyrics are taken from a David Adam “New Psalm in the Celtic Tradition”. The musical activity is all mine – but I’m sharing it with you!

Advent Sunday: not on the top of everyone’s Christian festivals. The whole Church’s liturgical readings have this Bible passage from ancient times in its lectionary.
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
Isaiah Chapter 2: 2-5.

The Hebrew Bible illustrates a wonderful view of a transformed and peaceful world presented in the book of Isaiah. Their world, so different in appearance, was one with similar pressures to our own background sounds of fear, war, hunger, and every kind of daily distraction.

It appears to contain great themes of Journeying, Hope, Light, Peace and Obedience. The Hebrews were looking for their Anointed One, The Messiah, a warrior, king, priest. We, now, see this as looking towards Jesus – the Risen Christ or Messiah. These are similar themes to Advent.

We know through the holy writings and experience that Jesus and the Messiah are one and the same – Jesus the Christ. Isaiah writes elsewhere –

“For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; . . . .
And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah Chapter 9: 6

That’s the churchy background. Why is the Season of Advent and Advent Sunday in particular so special to me personally? A little family history of my experiences should illuminate: you’ve guessed! I have a tale to tell..

I came to some appreciation of faith in Jesus the Christ in the early 1980s; following the birth of our two children. I went to chuch to support my first wife by holding our son in order for her to find peace to worship. She had wanted him to experience church even at that tender age. I was, sort of, willing. It would be stretching the truth to say this was happened first on Advent Sunday 1979! Through the following few years this support continued and by the time our second child was born we were able to worship together. The churchy folk we met, who became friends, were decidedly “normal” and I felt at home in that Herefordshire town parish community. I guess it was their attitude that pointed me towards Jesus. It wasn’t what could be considered a committed, living faith by any means.

I continued in faith through the 1980’s and the 1990’s experiencing emotional highs and lows and spiritual lows and highs: taking on training for the Anglican Lay Ministry. Unfortunately I never quite completed – but it’s not really relevant to this story. Also, this is not the place to describe my earliest experience of “church” and the cold, piety of churchy people. I definitely came with some baggage; critical and dismissive of “scientific” texts contained in the Bible. Unbelievable – thought I.

Back to the story. I love a good meandering, wordy ramble. Mind you, that’s probably common knowledge, by now!

Way back, twenty years ago, in 2002, in the late Autumn I was in the deepest, dark, emotional crisis. A five year relationship, which frankly had struggled, came to an abrupt end. Filled with guilt, shame and despair: every negative emotion, I felt, in my soul, that life had no purpose and would only get worse continuing: in those moments – nothing to live for. Perhaps it was time to go; but not thought of in such rational terms. This is relevant to Advent! Don’ worry!

This relationship had been tied up with a church we had attended and both of us had, sort of, public profile roles within the fabric of the day to day church tapestry. Without spilling any beans – I left. It was too painful to stay. This was mid-November. I was “church-less”.

I tried a couple of other local congregations but nothing clicked. My daily route to work had taken me along High Town Road and past the front of High Town Methodist Church. I had read their monthly newsletter occasionally, but had no interest in Methodism – or any other “ism” to be honest. But one morning I was drawn to look at the notice board and it displayed “Band Practice at 6:30 on Fridays” – oh well – perhaps that was worth try. So on the following Friday I turned up with my trusty guitar – however, no sounds, no lights on – nothing. So I wrote down a telephone number; which I eventually called. A very chatty lady called Judy answered and with tangible gusto invited me to her house for an audition.

I passed: and she was pleased to be able to welcome me to join a band, Judy explained, consisting of piano, drums, bass and saxophone, together with a couple of singers. Two Sundays later I was offered to bring along my guitar and amp and sit in: they had given up the Friday practices as it had become convenient to no one. The High Town church, then, was well blessed as they had a wonderful old organ (come on, come on, keep it clean!) and and organist! So, musically, they had one week of the band and contemporary music and alternate weeks of more traditional, old Methodist hymns. Perhaps the best of both worlds – it suited me as I couldn’t then commit to every week due to some slightly complex family issues. Oh dear the complications we bring on ourselves.

The Sunday I joined was Advent Sunday. I felt welcomed and had a purpose. It was as if that first Advent candle was shining some light into my life.

Sunday, last week, was Advent Sunday so we took a pilgrimage to High Town and joined their Advent Sunday worship. It was good to see the folk. The mighty organ was loud and proud: a bit too much for my Philistine, old-rocker taste; but we all managed to sing along to songs old and new(ish). God bless them all in their individual and church family lives. Like all churches they face great challenges in these times of continuing crises and lack of faith. It’s time when we need the Hope of Advent light. We need the encouragement of prophecy from contemporary voices. We need Jesus more now than ever.

Advent Sunday is about the announcement of certain hope. Hope provided by God through Jesus. Advent is about looking forward. In Christian liturgical terms we look to the fulfilment of God’s promise that Jesus will return to to take all things for the good of God’s people. We also look forward towards celebrating the birth, in human form, of Jesus – the Christ-child. In my experience this was an eye-opener in 2002. I felt I was guided by the Holy Spirit to explore a path that had already been laid for me.

Twenty years on I can look back on those times and experiences and breathe sighs of both relief and hope. My life was rescued and the last twenty years have seen me develop in both faith and love – all inspired by the hope contained in Advent. Angels have certainly ministered to me; mostly in human form. Family, old and new, together with friends, both old and new, provided me with something else to look forward to. My partner, and latterly wife, Kym has been the human anchor who made possible much of my stable growth. I’m indebted to her.

Without HOPE we’re not much. We are created with imagination and it’s the Advent Hope which propels us forwards towards the next day: just one step, one day at a time. Having spent a short time twenty years ago with no hope I appreciate the gift of Advent Hope.

Argh next week it could be Advent Peace and I’m still on week 1. Oh dear! (In fact the year has moved yet another week forward!!!!)

Thanks folks.

And for reading this far – the pleasure of my Christmas release for this year – soon to be available to stream and download from the usual sources –

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