One of the most amazing and hope-filled prayers has been used over the last few weeks in Church in the preparation for Communion.
For you are the hope of the nations,
the builder of the city that is to come.
Your love made visible in Jesus Christ
brings home the lost, restores the sinner
and gives dignity to the despised.
In his face your light shines out,
flooding lives with goodness and truth,
gathering into one in your kingdom
a divided and broken humanity.
Therefore with all who can give voice in your creation
we glorify your name, for ever praising you and saying:
Holy Holy Holy…
This prayer seems very appropriate as we move into the time of waiting, Advent.
Advent is about staying present. So many of us fall asleep spiritually during the run up to Christmas because the seduction of the material world takes hold. Most of us (me included) will spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need so that we can stay on the endless and life-sapping road of comparison and consumption. There are moments, if we stop long enough to be present, to pick a gift with care, thinking and maybe even praying for the person who will open it. There are more and more opportunities to buy presents through charities (buy a seed, some chickens, some ointment or a food package) that are really a gift to someone we don’t know, but whose needs are far greater than my own. There are opportunities with schemes like Reverse Advent where we can think of others closer to home or volunteer to support the homeless in Bradford. These moments help us to remember God’s love made visible in Jesus Christ who brings home the lost, restores the sinner and gives dignity to the despised. God loves us to join in with that mission, praying and loving our neighbours in Burley, Bradford and maybe even Burundi!
Advent this year will be punctuated by a general election with all its political intrigue, statistics, promises, fake news, in-fighting and slandering of opponents. However, at its best we hope and pray that our politicians, local and national, will be articulating a vision for the future that is more hopeful than the present. One in which some of the brokenness and division of humanity is addressed with compassion and action. However, for Christians we recognise that our attempts to fix the problems in our own families and communities, let alone our country and world can only ever be partial. As we approach Christmas we invest in the baby born, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel. We know that Jesus is the only true hope of the nations, the builder of the city that is to come. As we search out for the light that shines in the darkness, we come to realise that it is only in Jesus’ face that God’s light shines out flooding lives with goodness and truth and gathering into one in God’s Kingdom a divided and broken humanity.
One of the challenges of waiting, especially as we get older, is that w are tempted towards routine, we are less open to the surprise, to the new thing (apart from something bought from Amazon!). Advent causes us to stop and wonder what God is going to do next. The baby born in the manger is a surprise. He brings life and restoration out of the most unlikely places and it is certainly not mundane or ordinary. But God doesn’t come when we want him to, he is not under our control, but boy, when he turns up, it is well worth the wait.
Wait with anticipation and may the joy, light and peace of God revealed, Jesus Christ, pour into your hearts.