Welcome! It’s wonderful to gather together today. Please let me know if there is anything you’d like prayer for. And please say hi to someone you don’t know very well – it’s a good discipline to help us to keep a focus on being a welcoming church.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. On the one hand it is simply winding up and getting ready for Christmas, but it is also one of those times (like Lent) where a whole swathe of people in the community have their own traditions and rituals.
At the heart of Advent is the eager expectation of the coming of God to save his people. This finds partial fulfilment in the birth of the One who would do just that. But Advent isn’t just about looking back at Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. We look forward too.
Keep an eye out in our Old Testament readings over the next 4 Sundays for that forward-looking yearning of God’s people. The Old Testament Prophets were probably not aware that there would be two comings, not one. And so, even though so much has been fulfilled, like them, we look forward to God’s coming to fulfil his promises completely and put the world right.
But is this something we feel? Or is it merely a season that we enjoy? I do love the purple, and the lighting of candles. But Advent is not about those symbols; it’s the other way around… the symbols are about Advent: God coming as king to us to save his people and judge his enemies, bringing hope, joy, love and peace.
I guess the question is, do you trust in the Bible’s promises that Jesus will come again? He is not just a figure of history; he is a figure of the future. It can be hard for us to trust in a promise. So many aspects of our society have trained us well to be sceptical of promises… we try to keep our promises, but sometimes it’s not realistic (we think).
Well this is the spiritual challenge of Advent then… to ask ourselves honestly whether we believe that God will put things right… that there will be a day of redress, restoration and renewal. Ultimately this shines light on the fundamental question of whether God himself is trustworthy… whether you can depend on his word.
The Apostles who reflected on God’s first coming would say to us something like this: He has already come in fulfilment of seemingly forgotten promises… may this comfort us in the belief that he will come again to fulfil everything he has ever said he would do!
May Christ bless you this week!