The Season of Advent
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the Christian year came to a close ending with the great Feast of Christ the King held on Sunday 25 November we end one season and begin another.
Advent Sunday 2nd December is the season of spiritual preparation for Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Since ancient times, in the Roman empire, the accession of a new emperor into a city or province was his adventus: arrival. Latin speaking Christians, for whom Jesus Christ was the only true Lord borrowed the word and concept and invested it with new meaning: 'the coming of the Saviour.'
In keeping with the solemnity of the Advent season, seen as a time when the people walked in darkness (Isaiah.9 v2) the Church is presented in purple. There are no flowers and the organ plays only for singing. The Gloria 'Glory to God in the Highest', the angelic hymn which greeted the birth of Jesus, is omitted and on each of the four Sundays we light a candle on the Advent wreath to symbolise the approach of the Light, Jesus Christ Himself 'which shines in the darkness' (Jn 1v15).
This year as in past years our Advent celebrations start with a performance of Handel's 'Messiah' on 1st December performed by Ristretto and starting at 20.00. It is a phenomenal way to start Advent as the universally familiar words 'the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light...For unto us a child is given...and His name shall be called "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9 v2-6) are sung.
There are of course two Advents. The first happened when Jesus was born in Bethlehem which we celebrate each year. The second refers to the end of all time when all will be summoned before the judgement seat. Advent therefore holds a dual significance, both a look back and a look forward. Advent is a time for peace, good works, welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry and visiting the sick. It is a time of preparation, reflection and self-examination.
Of course, there are many traditions surrounding Advent which have become part of our preparation for Christmas. Advent calendars teach young and old about patience, preparation and expectation. Our 'Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols' is on December 16th at 19.00 first performed at King's College Cambridge in 1918 will be a poignant reminder in this centenary year of the sacrifice of so many, especially when we listen to the words 'all those who rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light'. I hope that as many of you who can will join us on this particular evening.
The service of Christingle on Christmas Eve 24th December at 16.00 is another special celebration this year. It is 50 years since the first service in England at Lincoln Cathedral on 7th December 1968. But Christingles themselves actually go back much further, and began in the Moravian Church in Germany. At a children's service in Marien-born in 1747, Bishop Johannes de Watteville looked for a simple way to explain the happiness that had come to people through Jesus. He decided to give the children a symbol to do this. In 1968, John Pensom of The Children's Society adapted Christingle and introduced it to the Church of England. It involved children decorating an orange with a red ribbon, dried fruits, sweets and a candle to create a new visual representation of Christ, the light of the world, celebrated by the lighting of the Christingle candles.
Then we come to Christmas itself, midnight Mass on the 24th commencing at 23.00 followed by the Mass of the Day on the 25th at 10.30. At both of these services we welcome the 'Prince of Peace' into our lives, the Saviour of the World.
So, as we approach the season of Advent, and as we start our new Christian Year may I wish you all Blessings of this Holy season and invite you all who read this to join with us in whatever way you can as we journey together towards the Light.