WELL here we are at the start of another year! All right, I know it’s not January yet, but it is Advent, which is generally recognised as the start of the Church Year.
For Advent means ‘coming’ and is the time when we Christians traditionally prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas, as we remember Jesus coming to Earth to be born in the manger in Bethlehem, which of course is the start of the Christian story.
But far more importantly, Advent is also the time when we remember that as a part of his teaching, Jesus often spoke of his eventual return, promising that at some future date he would come again to set up his Kingdom; so during Advent we are called upon to prepare ourselves for this event, ensuring that we are ready.
And yes, I know that over the years many cranks have discredited this aspect of Christian teaching by making all manner of extravagant claims, with forecasts of doom and ‘end of the World’ scenarios.
But such irrational behaviour on behalf of the few, shouldn’t prevent the rest of us from serious consideration of the very real teaching of Jesus, echoed in these words from the Creed, acknowledged, accepted and regularly recited by Christians from all branches of the Christian Church: “He ascended into heaven, And is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
So yes, in this Advent season I believe we should all take time to challenge our faith, to ensure that however little we may understand, yet we accept Jesus at his word and prepare ourselves for his unending kingdom.
It’s pretty exciting stuff really, and if only we can get to grips with it, this promise makes an incredible difference to our understanding of death and the loss of those we love. For it’s in this context that Jesus speaks of life after death and St Paul writes that ‘Christ will bring with him at his coming all who have died, who trusted in him.’
And being really prepared for his kingdom can, I suggest, give a whole new meaning to the expression ‘Happy Christmas.’