Foots Cray Baptist Church

The Church on Sidcup Hill

Bren

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Rev's reflections

Tuesday 1st December 2020

Verse for the week: Genesis 1:1 & Revelation 22:20
In the beginning, God...
Amen, come Lord Jesus

Today sees the beginning of Advent, the season of preparation and waiting, the build up to Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, apparently. Decorations are going up, lights are appearing in the windows and in shops and people are, generally, getting ready for the festive season. On Sunday we lit the first candle on the Advent wreath, children are already getting excited as they open the first window on their advent calendar, nativities and carol services are being planned, however socially distanced they have to be this year!

But what is advent and why do we celebrate it?

The word ‘Advent’ comes from Latin word ‘adventurus’ and means ‘the coming’ – it is when we await the coming of the child who, according to Johnny Mathis, would “grow up to turn tears to laughter, hate to love, war to peace, and everyone to everyone’s neighbour” – this child is Jesus, God’s chosen Messiah

The first Advent was practised around the 567AD when monks began their preparations for Christmas by fasting regularly. Then Bishop Perpetuus decreed that all Christians should fast three times a week in the weeks between St Martin’s Day (11th November) and Christmas Day, something like Lent is to Easter, when the people of God were expected to be more devoted to prayer

The Advent wreath comes from folk traditions of northern Europe which tell of people making circular bundles of evergreens and putting 4 candles on them. The circle was a symbol of life being an ongoing thing – in the midst of death is life and in the midst of life is death. The candles were a reminder to the people that, even in darkness there was light and that, although the days were short and very dark, the spring would return bringing life and hope

The Advent calendar also has its roots in Europe, but this time in Germany in the late 1800’s, where a picture would be covered and small numbered doors would be opened each day to reveal more of the picture. This was considered a fun way of counting down the days to Christmas and teaching the bible story of the nativity to children

In Medieval England, an early form of Nativity scene was a box, with a glass lid covered with a white napkin, containing 2 dolls, representing Mary and Jesus. The box was decorated with ribbons, flowers and apples and carried around the village. People would think themselves very lucky if they had the chance to see it and would pay the carriers of the box a halfpenny to see it

And as for the Christmas carols that we sing…many of the original ones were adapted from pagan songs sung at the winter solstice celebrations, which also take place at this time of the year. The word ‘Carol’ means dance, or song of joy and praise. One of the earliest known Christian carols was from a Roman Bishop in 129AD and titled 'Angels Hymn', however you probably have never heard of it as it was written, and was sung, completely in Latin!

So we have a short history of the Advent Calendar, the Wreath, the Nativity and the Carols, but none of these practices are found in the bible, even though they are all good ways of helping us as we prepare our hearts and minds for the festive day. Counting down the days and weeks, getting everything for when people come to visit, preparing the meal of all meals, and making sure that everyone has enough gifts and presents is very important and often helps children to wait, but is this really what Advent is all about?

While Advent is about preparing for the ‘big day’, there is something else we need to be preparing ourselves for – Jesus returning to earth to establish His everlasting Kingdom

The bible begins with the words ‘In the beginning, God…’ (Genesis 1:1), we then read the story of creation and the garden of Eden, where God and humanity lived in community together. God, as mentioned here, wasn’t just God the Father, but God, the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God was at the beginning, Jesus was at the beginning, the Holy Spirit was at the beginning. All three were involved in the creation of the world

The bible ends with the words ‘He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’ (Revelation 22:20) At the end of all time, Jesus will return, Eden will be restored and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will live in community with humanity once again, for all eternity – just as it was in the beginning

And so, as we begin our preparations to celebrate Advent and Christmas, let us take time to remember what we are celebrating. While we sing carols, open Advent calendars, light candles and watch Nativity plays, by all means, look for the baby in the manger, but also look towards Jesus' glorious return at the culmination of all things

While He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and He is also involved in the world we live in, right here, right now, throughout our lives even all through this awful year, He has been with us, and He will continue to be with us next year, and all the years that we are on earth, until that great day when He comes to reign

So, as we begin our Adventure to Christmas, let me wish you a Happy Advent and pray that you might find Him in the midst of all your preparations

©Rev Bren Brundritt 2020

  • 137 Sidcup Hill
  • Sidcup
  • Kent
  • DA14 6JS


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