Copy of the Advent resources now up on the church Facebook page and the Five Minutes Space blog (http://5minsspace.blogspot.com/)
“Putting the waiting back into wanting.”
Christmas 2008 looks set to be a time of real stress and pressure for many families. The mounting debt crisis and reports of property repossessions means that people are going to find the traditional commercialised Christmas putting a total squeeze on their family finances.
This coming season of Advent can provide an escape from all that and an opportunity to reclaim the true spirit of Advent. As Fr Christopher Jamison (BBC “Monastery”) writes in his forthcoming book to be published later in the year:
“Advent is the traditional month of preparation before Christmas, a time of fasting and intense prayer, a time of eager expectation. It is above all a time to celebrate waiting as a normal part of human experience, when the Christian tradition invites us to wait for the birth of a child. In Advent we rejoice that we are waiting, that there is still time to prepare a way for the Lord and we celebrate the virtue of patience. By contrast, the consumer world tells us not to wait but to ‘buy now.’ Greed cannot wait, so to learn to wait is a simple antidote to greed.”
This advent, we want PROPHETS, not PROFITS!
THE TWELVE “Cs” of Christmas
1.Christ: on whom all our waiting is centred. In the simplicity and modesty of his birth, we find God’s word among us with a clear message: “Live simply.”
2.Consumption: the engine of economic growth which enslaves us and treats creation as a mere commodity there for our use.
3.Community: a true focus outside of ourselves and immediate families directing us to be mindful of those in need around us.
4.Covetousness: the envy that drives so much materialistic pursuit and which is expressly singled out in the Ten Commandment for special attention.
5.Carols: with their multiple and joyous references to the humility of the Christ-child story.
6.Carbon: the by-product of so much of our modern over-consuming lifestyle.
7.Creation: God’s marvellous work, of which we are a small, but key part. God works ex nihilo, creating out of nothing. Even before the advent of humans in the Genesis creation narrative, God looks on at each passing day’s work and declares all that he sees as “good”.
8.Climate Change: our great unchartered experiment with the biosphere. Threats to creation loom large if we don’t awaken ourselves to the call to go back to some basic principles and live more simply, more sustainably.
9.Covenant: God’s faithfulness pledged first to Noah and then through Abraham, resulting in the coming of “God-with-us”: Emmanuel, promised to Israel.
10.Chaos: the disordered world that awaits if we do not live accordingly within the limits of God’s precepts.
11.Candles: four for each of the weeks of Advent, signifying the coming light that will shine in the darkness and which “darkness cannot overpower.” (St John’s Gospel Ch1
12. Commercialism: that which sees the price of everything and the value of
nothing and sees, in Christmas, one sole opportunity: profits (and not
Plan for first weekend of Advent. To divide the Saturday and Sunday into two distinctly different days.
is a day of fasting and abstinence in which we reflect soberly on how humanity has fallen short of our vocation to be good stewards of God creation. It has a pre-Easter, “tomb-like” feel to it, before we break out into Sunday: an unapologetically pro-Creation day.
The readings of the first weekend of Advent lend themselves (with great serendipity) to our theme and offer great scope for reflection.
Isaiah 64:1-9: “that the mountains would tremble before you…all of us have become like one who is unclean and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…we are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand.”
Mark 13: 24-37 “Learn this lesson form the fig tree: as soon as the twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near….Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away. …keep watch for you do not know when the owner of the house will come back.”
There is ample liturgical material that can be accessed from the Iona community for both Saturday and Sunday. In addition, there are some inspiring hymns and reflections in Geoffrey Duncan (Ed): What A World (Granary Press 2002). I cite two here:
A Prayer of Intercession
Father of all,
Creator beyond time, we think of the flow of seasons and generations that is our home,
We remember those who have lived before us:
those whose explorations have left us gifts of knowledge and expertise,
those whose hard work has been the foundation for our prosperity.
those whose sacrifices have become the stuff of our legends,
those whose faithfulness has challenged our ambivalence.
We dream of those who will live long after we are gone:
the great, great grandchildren who will know us as ancient pictures,
the generations of every nation who will trace history back to us,
the people who will shape the world, in part, upon the lessons we demonstrated,
the believers who will know you, a little, through our tesyimony.
Past and future meet in our presence.
So we pray for ourselves and those of our generation:
that we will hand on a world worthy of humanity and of you, eternal God,
that we will measure our treatment of creation against the needs of those unborn,
that we will treasure our world and protect it from ourselves,
that we will be so inspired by your Spirit that our work will bear distant fruit.
And to you, eternal and intimate God,
be all glory, praise and honour,
as it was in the beginning
and for ever shall be
world without end
Come to worship on foot (wherever possible), our pilgrims return.
Most Holy Trinity
We thank you for the beauty of your creation
and for the joy of living in a world so full of wonder,
may all nature join us in praise and worship
adoration and longing love, in response
to the gift of life you have given us.
Lord of all creation
may the beauty of this earth
lead us to a deeper worship of you.
A reverence that causes gentleness.
Fear that leads to holiness
and a peace we long to share.
As evidence of our own creativity and the gifts that God has invested in us, we ask the members of the congregation to offer up, during the liturgy, their own work: that their crafts become a prayer to God (this is extremely useful for engaging the younger children in several weeks before.). Children can be enthused to make use of materials that would be destined for the scrap heap and put them to good use to make:
Animals, flowers, images of their own home and family, the Sun, trees etc.
The mood is upbeat: having Eucharistic faith in the pledge that God will not abandon us and that we have been given the creativity to face up to the problems that beset us.
After the service, people are asked to make their advent pledges: for some this will be to put a cap on the cost of each individual present. For others, it will be a pledge to use their own human creativity to make gifts for their loved ones which are not templates of mass-produced products. Members of the congregation retire for a stint of craft-making.