Advent Sunday 2013 – Early or Late?

Happy new (liturgical!) year!

Today is the first day of the Advent Book Club. And we’re reading Maggi Dawn’s Beginnings and Endings [and what happens in between]. Maggi has kindly shared day 1 here for those of you who haven’t got a copy of the book.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Maggi’s thoughts – and my thoughts thereon

Maggi starts by pondering just how early Christmas starts these days – often way before December. Certainly the shops have started as early as ever. The Christmas Market moved into St Albans on Thursday – and in response our outdoor crib by the Lady Chapel went up too. For the last week I’ve walked past the bar beneath one of the offices on our London campus and seen gatherings of bepaperhatted happy folk, pulling crackers and eating turkey.

Yet, as Maggi notes, and several friends have reminded me, anticipating Christmas isn’t fun if you don’t feel like celebrating this year – whilst all around you festive spirit abounds. Somehow the somber bits of Advent could just do with continuing a little (a lot?) longer until, perhaps, the mood of celebration returns.

Those of you who are better theologians than me will appreciate Maggi’s observation that the tenses in psalm 27 change throughout – sometimes thanking God for what they have already; sometimes urgently petitioning for a change in fortunes.

I too can remember Advent as both a time of joy – Ben’s first Christmas; our first married Christmas having barely returned from honeymoon – and sadness – wondering if my Granny would live till I got home from university in mid-December; battling an inexplicable stomach disorder (thankfully now resolved). But most of all, I remember waiting… waiting for Christmas to come so I could celebrate for the first time with my son, with my wife… waiting for Christmas with every ring of the phone wondering if it would be bad news from Granny’s doctor or my own.

But in recent years – Advent has become a time of waiting. Sometimes fast; sometimes slow; always waiting and hoping; and always hopeful, if not confident, in asking, as the psalmist does:

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life

It may be Christmas morning. It may be unexpectedly at any point in the year. But blessings will be upon us from on high.

Maranatha – come, Lord Jesus.

You can follow the Advent Book Club on Facebook, on Twitter, or read about it on Pam’s blog.

An Advent Eve thought

335/365 O come, O come, EmmanuelSo. Advent is upon us again. And I find myself signed up to the Advent Book Club again.

Last year, Pam suggested on Twitter that a few of us might read a book together for Advent. A few of us read Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers Together with Nouwen’s Own Words. Reading with others meant I got to read their thoughts – which were often far more enlightening than my own – and also forced me to stick at it. It definitely made for a calmer, more prayerful approach to Advent – forcing me to take time each day to read something, pray about it, and write about it.


Beginnings and EndingsThis year the Advent Book Club is back. Bigger, better and more organised! We’re reading Beginnings and Endings (and what happens in between) by Maggi Dawn.

  • If you’d like to read along with us, click on the title or the picture of the cover to the right to purchase a PDF copy – or order from your regular bookshop.
  • There’s no need to think that because you don’t have the book you can’t join in though – some of us will be blogging (hopefully daily) – others sharing on the Facebook page – and others tweeting – most probably with the hashtag #adventbookclub.

Above all, I pray that whether you dip in once or join in every day, the Advent Book Club gives you each a glimpse of what Advent is about and makes that big celebration at the end that bit more special and meaningful. As it’s the last day of the Church’s year, it’s the last day for this collect:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May God stir up in you something of Advent as you come with us for the journey.

מרנא תא – Maranatha – Come, Lord Jesus.

BigRead13 Day 49 : Stories – the final day!

Easter Monday Pilgrimage 2013The final BigRead13 post can be found here, which sets Hebrews 11:13 for us to read today:

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth.

And so we come to the end of the #BigRead13. It’s been good to read the works of C S Lewis and the Bible alongside each other. Sometimes it’s felt right to focus on both. Sometimes, I have to confess, I’ve posted the link to the Bible verse and become engrossed in that, and forgotten to reference back to the Lewis. But forcing me to read and ponder a verse or two each day has been good.  I apologise to you all for any mistakes along the way; for any theological error; for my lack of modern music at times – I’m sorry, I’m just a traditional kind of guy that way.

But I don’t apologise for doing it. For it has made me think on death, on resurrection, on life as it is now and the life that is to come. It has made me think and pray a little more. It has made me firmer in my faith. It has made me more honest in my faith too – sharing some doubts here and there, wondering if I’m good enough, wondering what more I can do, imperfect as I am?

Thankfully you’re spared as a final blast of Easter music a rendition of Light’s Glittering Morn Bedecks The Sky*, all gazillion verses of it, because nobody has had the patience to record it on YouTube. But thank you to all of you who’ve been kind enough to read a post or two, comment occasionally to me on here or in person.

Let us pray that, if we are but strangers and foreigners on this earth, that we will be anything but when it comes to the new earth, the new heaven and the new Jerusalem. And may God give us the grace to truly live up to our promise as an Easter people. Amen.

* A gazillion, it turns out, is approximately 12.

BigRead13 Day 48 : Home

BigRead13 Day 48 can be found here.

Today’s reading is Revelation 21 – found here rather than posting as it’s quite long.  We are given the tale of the new Jerusalem – a new heaven – a new earth. Along with it, an excerpt from C S Lewis: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” taken from The Last Battle.

What does it mean to come home? Revelation 21 is a pretty good answer to that. It is no surprise that is is often chosen for funerals. It can be comforting to the bereaved to know that all will become new. That their loved ones will be with them in a new heaven and on a new earth. But it is comforting to those of us who are not bereaved as we contemplate our own mortality too. This might sound like a macabre thought for what should surely be a happy time, Easter.

But if you think about it, it isn’t. Easter is a time for giving thanks – for victory on the cross as Jesus dies that we might be reconciled to God and God to us – and for victory in the resurrection as Jesus is raised up just as we may be risen up. As St Augustine said “We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song”. What more reason to celebrate joyfully than to know that death is not the end. That sin and hell is not the end. That trusting in Jesus we may live again, be born again, live our lives anew. Perhaps in our Easter celebrations we see a glimpse of that new heaven and that new earth. Contagious joy amongst everyone I met at Church yesterday. And if you really want contagious joy, the Easter Monday pilgrimage at St Albans Cathedral proved to be rather a joyful event too – just see the video below!

Lord, let us be an Easter people. Let our joy and our confidence in the saving power of the risen Christ shine out among our friends, our family and everyone we meet. Let people wonder why we’re so happy about Easter – and let us tell them! And let us remember truly how glorious the world that is to come will be – “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” Amen.

Christ is risen! Alleluia! He is risen indeed!

Easter Monday Pilgrimage from Richard Gillin on Vimeo.

BigRead13 Day 47 : Resurrection

Day 47’s BigRead13 post can be found here.

Before we get to the formalities of today’s post:

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

1 John 2:17 for today:

And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

We’re asked that, as we celebrate, we think about whether we are able to think that there is more to life than this world.

Well, what a question! Lent has been a long time, waiting, praying for an answer to this question.  Today is when it is answered.

The buzz after sundown last night (liturgically today, natch) when we lit the Easter fire and the Exsultet told us that Easter had arrived, that Christ had broken the prison bars of death and risen victorious, when 45 members of God’s church were newly confirmed in the Spirit, and then we made a great noise before launching into a rousing finale of Thine Be The Glory was quite something.  But coming into a Church full of happiness and glory this morning was equally wonderful. Of course there is more to life than this world!

Alleluia! I’m afraid there’s another hymn here that needs to be played loud…

BigRead13 Day 46 : Time

Day 46’s #bigread13 post can be found here.

Psalm 39:4-5 is set for today:

“Lord, let me know my end,
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
Surely everyone stands as a mere breath. Selah

I’m not quite sure I’m in the mood for this as I’m just back from the Easter Ceremonies at church and buoyed with the elation of Easter. But I shall attempt it anyway! What is our attitude to time and  the limited span we have been given?

The passing of time is something I was pondering slightly earlier today in that time of waiting that is Holy Saturday. Waiting for what we know is to come. Wondering where the last (liturgical) year had gone to – earlier I found out one of Ben’s friends has chicken pox and it was Easter 2012 we found that Ben had it; earlier I had an email from the PhotoJoJo Time Capsule service with last year’s Easter photos.

Has it been a good year? Yes.  I’ve seen our baby boy turn into a proper little man.  Watching him learn and explore is a thing of wonder. And I’ve not done too badly on improving my Biblical literacy – the Advent Book Club that Pam organised and the #BigRead13 have helped. And I’ve become a little better at praying on the back of both of those and a more concerted effort at #trainprayer as inspired by Sara. And my fellowship with my fellow Christians has improved as well – deepening love with my wonderful wife; an occasional theological discussion rather than just admiring the flowers with fellow congregation; and meeting a handful of my Christian twitter pals. Hopefully this Easter will be the beginning of another year of deepening love of Jesus, our Lord and our redeemer.

Finally… this needs to be played throughout Easter (there’s 50 days of it, y’know) at top blast whenever you feel the need for a perk up! Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

BigRead13 Day 45 : Beloved

Today’s #bigread13 post can be found here.

john 15:16:

You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.

Hard to find words for today, so I’ll just leave you with this to gaze upon – a man-size image of the crucifixion.

BigRead13 Day 44 : Minds

Today’s #BigRead13 post can be found here.

Today we’re asked to think on Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

And with it a snippet from C S Lewis – The Last Battle this time – people who are trapped in a prison of their mind – if they but trusted, they could be helped out, but they cannot trust.

Today’s prayer asks us to be thankful for the transformation God makes in us.

Some music for this evening which helped me think about this – the Agnus Dei from the Missa Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera by Lassus. Tonight isn’t about big drama. It’s about quietly sharing a meal with friends. It’s about what could turn into a bloodbath being defused by Jesus healing the high priest’s slave’s ear that Peter had cut off. And it is about the peace, the calm, that sharing the Eucharist has brought countless generations since – being still, and knowing God’s presence, by harking back to what he asked us to do and, well, doing it.

BigRead13 Day 43 : Seek

Day 43’s Big Read post is here.

Matthew 7:7 is the set reading for today:

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

We’re asked if we take time to seek after God, or are we content as we are?

I don’t think with me it’s so much content – rather it comes back to the idea of being #notbusy. When we’re too busy we settle for second best, rather than striving after best when that could take just that last little bit of free time – or have to squeeze out something else essential. I tried to make time for the Lent addresses this week, I really did. The first was excellent. I missed the other two though.  Am hopeful of Maundy Thursday though…

Lord, give me the time to seek after you. When I’m busy, let me look for you in the busyness. When I can make the time, help me to be not busy and look for you in the calm too.

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