As the darkness of the winter months deepens and the effects of the recession and the spending cuts bite even harder, we feel in need of something to lighten our spirits. The announcement of a royal wedding did much to counterbalance the despondency of the austerity of the present. We have something to look forward to and to celebrate.
To the future
Advent marks the beginning of the new church year. It's a time of looking forward to the celebration of the birth of our Saviour and the significance of this for Christians. It's also a time of looking to the unknown future when God will rework his kingdom at the end of time. Accountability and judgement are the reality we will all face.
Advent is, therefore, seen as a time of preparation and a time of repentance. As we use the four weeks of Advent for quiet reflection we can prepare ourselves spiritually for this two-fold encounter with God now and in time to come. Christmas is celebrated at the darkest time of the year for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, so we experience in a very real way the light of Christ coming into the world and overcoming the darkness. The incarnation is about freedom, forgiveness, restoration and hope of new life.
This is the real reason why we should feel uplifted and energised to keep faith when we are going through hard and difficult times. The joy of the birth of Jesus is something that can permeate through the darkest of times and dispel the hopelessness felt by so many people today.
The promotion of the 'Big Society' has been very much talked about in recent weeks. Many church, leaders have expressed concern at the increasing gulf between those trapped in poverty, for whatever reason, and those who have plenty of resources to draw from. The issue is a complex one and will need careful consideration to make the planned reforms work in practice.
Something for nothing
Helping our neighbour and caring for the weak and vulnerable in society is a fundamental Christian principle which we should try to put into action. Doing something for nothing may be counter culture in today's society but at the day of judgement, the King will say, 'whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'(Matthew.25:40).
There are many opportunities to help others in small ways. I know many of you are involved In doing your bit for the 'Big Society'. The sense of doing something positive and of real benefit to others is in itself the reward. This is a time when the church can really make a difference in peoples' lives. Those who will come co church to celebrate Christmas will hopefully feel welcomed and included in the celebrations that mark the birth of Christ and ultimately the redemption of the world. What better way forward can there be than this for the 'Big Society' that is crying out for meaning and purpose to life.
We can make this happen in our communities this Advent and Christmas.