Pastoral letter – Advent 1

Dear Friends,

Well here we are at the beginning of traditional Advent time, there will be just 4 Sundays between now and Christmas Day. I wonder how you are feeling about that, especially as it feels like we have spent the whole year waiting, and are likely to continue to wait through advent, into Christmas and beyond. We wait for a vaccine for Covid-19, we wait for something like normal life to resume, wait to be able to join with family and friends… we wait.

Waiting is of course one of the themes of advent, as we not only prepare for the celebration of Jesus birth at Christmas, but also as we respond to the invitation to look forward to the day when all will be made well, and all will be made new, which is the ultimate promise to us all:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

‘See, the home[a] of God is among mortals.
He will dwell[b] with them;
they will be his peoples,[c]
and God himself will be with them;[d]
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21:1-5)

See I am making all things new, how we long for that I am sure, and yet maybe advent also calls us to ponder what new might need to look like. The Gospel reading set for this week calls us to be awake to what is going on within us and around us, to be aware of the signs of the times.

Jesus so often called the disciples to pay attention- to be woke. Watch for deception. Watch out for yourselves. Watch during the difficult days ahead. In the face of environmental, political, social, and cosmic calamity—stay woke. It is as if there is the possibility that the disciples will miss that which should be seen and known. The disciples’ tendency towards ignorance in the midst of divine activity is a dominant theme in Mark’s Gospel. I suspect that we are not so different in these days!

The reading is here, but I suggest you read it in context with the whole Chapter, noting that this all takes place as Jesus is teaching in Jerusalem just days before the crucifixion:

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ (Mark 13: 24-37)

Stay alert, be awake, pay attention, watch, pray, I don’t know about you but those demands feel quite heavy, especially when I simply want to stick my head under my pillow and hide some mornings , as some days every day feels like groundhog day , here we go again! Maybe now is the time that we need to remind ourselves that as long as this year might feel, and as hard as it has been, that this will pass, and all will be made new, suffering and sighing will pass away. Maybe not quickly, but they will, but for now we watch and wait with Christ, and to what he calls us to.

Stay awake, be woke to love and compassion, allow yourself to become a channel through which that love, and compassion can flow.

Stay awake, be woke to divine possibilities to unexpected opportunities to share and to show care.

Stay awake, be woke to the still small voice within reminding you that you are loved and valued and that you have a part to play in bringing the kin(g)dom into being.

Stay awake, be woke, for Christ is with you and in you and calls you to walk and work in harmony with the unforced rhythms of grace that flow through all creation.

Even in a pandemic there is hope, and we can live into that hope as we walk through this long waiting time, so what are the signs of hope that you see? I was talking today to Jane Wall, one of the Circuit Pioneers, and she was telling me about the amazing generosity of the community towards the Foodbank based at Stanwood Church, how one family have provided gifts of toiletries, not one or two things but enough for a lovely gift to be given to 35 people. Other gifts like fruit, and Christmas hampers have been offered too.

Even in a pandemic there is hope, a phone call to check how people are, and email to say thank you can set off a chain reaction of thanks as they draw us out of ourselves to focus on another. A letter or a card can make a huge difference to somebody in these dark days of waiting.

Even in a pandemic there is hope…. Where might you have encountered it, how might you offer it? My soon to be daughter-in-law told me how she has done all of her Christmas shopping supporting charities that are close to the gift recipients heart, it has taken time and dedication and shows deep interest in those she is giving to, she has certainly challenged me!

Even in a pandemic there is hope, there is light in the darkness, all WILL be made new!

I leave you with a hymn:

Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

Longing for food, many are hungry
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us Your bread, broken for others
Shared until all are fed.

Christ, be our light…..

Longing for shelter, many are homeless
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us Your building, sheltering others
Walls made of living stone.

Christ, be our light…..

Many the gift, many the people
Many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another
Making Your kingdom come.

Christ, be our light…..

Still Jesus calls us to watch, wait and pray, to be woke to signs of the kin(g)dom, to be aware of the divine energy at work even now.

So, I pray that this advent time might be a deep blessing to you, as we practice waiting in this long waiting time, As always of you would like to talk to me please call, if I am not in leave a message, I will get back to you.

Peace and blessings

Reverend Sally Coleman

Sunset at Redmires Reservoir

About Sally C

How do I describe myself, I am not what I do, (I am a Methodist Minister), I am not who I am related to (I have 5 wonderful children, 2 lovely granddaughters and a grandson). I am a seeker truth, a partaker of life in all it's fullness and a follower, sometimes stumbling, sometimes celebrating of the Christian pathway. I seek wholeness, joy and a connectedness to all things through a deep reconciliation with the God whose love blows my socks off!
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