Advent – preparing to celebrate Christmas
The Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
It’s crazy to think that Christmas is just over a month away, yet exciting all the same. The anticipation of joy, celebration, giving, receiving and spending time with our loved ones is so much what the Christmas celebration is all about. The weeks leading up to Christmas are traditionally referred to as Advent; the expectation of ‘the coming’. Christmas is the time we celebrate the coming of Christ into the world, as depicted in the scripture above. This is why the focus of our remaining chapel services for 2018 will be based around the four tenets of Advent; Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
“Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.” – Henri Nouwen
Hope is the confident expectation that there will be a positive outcome because we have an anchor to secure this hope to. If you think about it, it’s entirely appropriate for Jesus Christ, the Christian hope of the world, to have come in the form of a baby, because babies are hope personified. They are pure potential. Their lives are all about the future. Is there a mother or father who hasn’t looked into the face of their newborn baby and wondered, “What will this little child accomplish, what will he become? A doctor saving lives, a lawyer pursuing justice, an engineer, painter, astronaut, college professor, athlete or research scientist…anything is possible.
What happens when people don’t have hope or lose hope? Spouses give up on marriage. Parents give up on their teenage children. Leaders give up on their people. Healthy emotions, such as contentment and peace are replaced with the toxic emotions of confusion, shame, worry and disappointment. In short, it’s impossible to be spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, or relationally healthy without hope. This is why the ‘Advent’ message focuses on looking at what we put our hope in.
Peace is what we all desire. We all want to be able to rest, to not worry, to feel free to enjoy life, family, friends, work, church, hobbies, entertainment, and much more. We want to be able to enjoy ourselves and not be burdened down with worries that rob us of vigour, life, and purpose. Our Year 12 students have finished their HSC and IB examinations, and the rest of the college is in the throes of their Yearly exams. Within the coming weeks, desiring peace amidst the pressure to perform and succeed is something worth anticipating. Pursuing peace is a fitting tenet in anticipation of the Christmas celebration.
Joy. Robert Louis Stevenson, the famous Scottish novelist who wrote Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, at life’s end famously quoted; “To miss the joy is to miss everything!” Our lives are filled with opportunity, adventure, experience: the next holiday, moving into a new house, the next level of challenge; which are all meant to be immersed with joy, but can often be amiss. Advent is a time to be reminded that we are to be filled with joy in all we experience.
Love. ‘All you need is love’ (The Beatles), ‘Love is an open door’ (from ‘Frozen’ the movie), ‘Love makes the World go round’ (Madonna), ‘Without Love, life is like the seasons with no summer’ (from ‘Hairspray’ the movie). Such song lyrics remind us that society values love as an essential part of our existence, no matter what our cultural or religious heritage might be. The love of God finds its most profound and life-giving expression in the Christmas event. Such love is a mystery beyond our understanding and, certainly, beyond our deserving. This arrival of God in the man Jesus is the heart of what the Advent season is all about.
In conclusion, to quote Dr. Seuss;
‘Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!’
Please place in your diaries the invitation to our Christmas celebrations on the 8th and 9th December. The invitation is located on Spaces and has all of the details. Please plan on being part of these festivities, as it will be Dr Mulford’s final celebrations here at Newington and will be hosted by our brother school in Tonga, Tupou College.
Rev. Geordie Barham