“The circle of life” – “The circle of the seasons” – “The circle of the year”. There are many circles that we refer to in conversation and in our thinking, sometimes we call them cycle.
Today, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new “liturgical cycle”. We will take four weeks or so to think of the promises God made over the centuries leading up to the birth of His Son Jesus in the Bethlehem stable. For the Eastern Church this season is called “the Little Lent” and is mainly penitential – for the Western tradition it is more hopeful but still sombre. For us let it be sombre but filled with anticipation and joyful hope.
As a small, young church it falls to us to look forward and not dwell on negatives, nor on our age or our size. Our sins we put behind us and rely on God’s merciful forgiveness, we do not dwell on their impact and beat ourselves up over them. Instead we should be dwelling and meditating on the promises that are ours and the promise that we show.
The Last Supper narrative in John’s Gospel is full of promise for the future of the Church to be founded on the Apostles, a promise summed up in John 16: 23-24: Anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name. . . Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.
That is the simple message for Advent – we need the confidence of Mary in her response to the Angel (Luke 1:38) and we need to pray with that confidence, knowing that what we ask will be granted.
Having said that I want to remind us all of the beautiful (UK) television advert that everyone is talking about – the impatient little boy waiting for Christmas – so he can give his parents the gift he has for them.
When we ask in Jesus’ name, and when we are confident to get what we ask for that will only be the case when we ask for it for the good of others.
So, what am I asking for this Advent? That the gift of Christmas be life, strength and growth for our small family to become the earth-shifting power of a faith that moves mountains.
We already see the seeds of growth in several parts of the world – let us rejoice in that and feed that growth with the fertiliser of our prayer, good works, and above all love.
May this Holy Season bring forth it’s fruit abundantly in each and every one of us.
Presiding Bishop UECC,
Metropolitan for Europe and Bishop Ordinary of ECC UK