Pastor’s Blog December 2019

I was recently party to a conversation about The Christmas Season. One of the people involved in this conversation was saying how he would never include the reading about the wise men in his Christmas services because it isn’t part of the Christmas story. Given that I’m going to preach on that story at the Carol Service I wasn’t swayed by his argument. Although I acknowledge that he is, strictly speaking right. The wise men belong to Epiphany. The season in the Church calendar that follows on from the 12 days of Christmas, which incidentally don’t start until midnight on Christmas Eve. The period we are in at the present moment is Advent.  And there is more to Advent than 24 chocolates until Christmas.

In fact the themes of Advent are big biblical themes, Judgement, Heaven and Hell and the Second Coming of Christ. Advent has very little to do with getting ready for Christmas (the first coming of Jesus) and a lot to do with getting ready for his second coming. Jesus told a number of parables that relate to these themes, one of the best known is in Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids.

Three actions are taught in this parable.

  1. The bridesmaids are waiting for the Groom to arrive. They don’t know precisely the moment he will come and so they wait. As I’ve said a number of times lately, waiting is a key discipline of the Christian life. On the big scale we are waiting for the New Heavens/New Earth, the consummation of all that Jesus Christ came to accomplish. On a smaller scale we often have to wait to see the fruit of his work in our lives and our church.
  2. Preparing, the bridesmaids have to be prepared for the grooms’ arrival. Which in the context of the parable is the seemingly simple task of having oil in their lamps. But as we know half of them are unprepared for his coming. In one sense the whole of our discipleship takes place in Advent. God wants to work in our lives to prepare us for his coming. He wants to conform us to the likeness of Jesus, he wants to make us holy and fruitful. This is a time of preparation are we using it well?
  3. Watching, Jesus concludes the parable with this command, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the time.” 25:13. The Advent themes I mentioned earlier do not get the emphasis that they perhaps should. Could it be that watching might involve reflecting on these themes of Judgement, Heaven and Hell and the Second Coming of Jesus? Allowing these themes to shape and colour the way we understand the world in which we live and to shape the way we pray for and talk to the people that God brings across our path.

Hallelujah Christmas is coming but let’s not be in too much of a hurry to get there. Advent has much to teach us. 

Phil Dixon