Now December it is Advent, the time of year when we prepare to celebrate the ‘Adventus’ or ‘arrival’ of Christ at Christmas as well as preparing ourselves for the second coming of Christ, whatever day, year or millennium, that will be!
Our Advent Calendars align perfectly this year with Advent Sunday being 1 December.
In our morning services on Advent Sunday across Hope, Penyffordd and Penymynydd, we will hear Bishop Gregory’s Advent Message – all about our diocese living as ‘people of hope’ – and in Hope – where we are people of hope in more ways than one – we look forward to the annual Hope Village Christmas Lights Switch On too!
We look forward this month to celebrating the 12 days of Christmas, but also this month – in our first 12 days of Advent – we join with the rest of the United Kingdom in preparing for a General Election too.
We wonder what kind of government the election will bring and we continue to wonder what the final terms of Brexit will be. I forget how many times I have invited us to pray for the UK government in this very magazine! I am growing tired and wearied of it all. That’s me whose ‘paid to pray’ too!
Whilst I am sure the thoughts and feelings that I convey, many of us share, this all said however, we have a Christian duty to (1) keep praying, (2) prepare and decide how we will vote and (3) on 12 December make sure that we do indeed vote!
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York remind us in a recent General Election Pastoral Letter:
In our prayers for this election we should be thankful for those who put themselves forward for public service and ask that they will seek the common good and justice. We should take part, as important decisions are being made that will affect us all. That includes fulfilling our democratic duty to vote.
(Church of England website, 19 Nov)
It is important that we rise above any negative feelings toward Brexit and the third UK General Election in less than five years, and keep an interest.
On the evening of 11 December, St John the Baptist Church will be open for prayer from 7-9pm and Hope Church will be open every day as always from dawn until dusk. We will make prayers available for you to use, alternatively, please use the quiet to pray as you please. The focus of our church magazine prayer page is the General Election.
As important as politics currently is to the United Kingdom, of course as Christians, we keep our focus in December on Advent and Christmas too.
To quote again the Archbishops of Canterbury and York:
As we approach this General Election, we also herald the season of Advent, the birth of Jesus Christ and the reminder of his return as our judge. In Christ’s birth God chooses to come and live among us, intervening in our imperfect world, and offering the hope of life reordered and restored. At his return he promises the setting right of all things. It is time to set aside apathy and cynicism and to be people of hope.
This month as people of hope, we will pray for the Election, but also as people of hope, there will be space in our quarter of the Mission Area, for personal prayer and reflection on Advent too.
Those who have attended the recent prayer course and or 4 o’clock service in Hope, will have discovered principals of ‘contemplative prayer’.
This month on Monday evenings at 7pm, Gareth will lead a short series of quiet contemplative prayer – ‘Preparing the Way’. We will move around four of the churches in our quarter of the Mission Area; where the church’s name, alongside some ideas that we’ve thought about in the Leading Your Church into Growth Local Course, will inspire the Advent theme. Everyone is welcome.
May you have a blessed Advent and peaceful Christmas and know God’s wisdom as you vote.
In Christ, Adam
For Archbishops of Canterbury and York General Election Pastoral Letter and Film in full go online to:
Addition to this post on 2 December -
Bishop Gregory's Advent Message to the Diocese for 2019
The diocese is talking a lot about hope these days. The diocesan conference had the theme of our Shared Hope and undoubtedly you will have heard something about Hope Street, our latest and most ambitious evangelist endeavour, supported by the Evangelism Fund of the Church in Wales.
What a marvellous word hope is. Hope is full of a bright future. It suggests that things can only get better. Hope speaks of a positive attitude towards life. And hope is very much a theme for Advent because the Christian hope, the hope that all things are built together by God with a specific future in mind - this is one of the themes of our Advent message. So, it’s very suitable that I talk to you this year about hope.
In the 21st chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus foretells the future and I’m afraid to say, the passage makes fairly grim reading. Jesus talks about wars, and rumours of wars. He talks about the heavens being shaken and about people being filled with anxiety, worry and fear. But suddenly Jesus says this: When all these things happen, lift up your heads for your redemption is at hand. Lift up your heads because you as Christians, as followers of Jesus, can be filled with hope. Why? Because God, we believe, is in control of the universe. God, we believe, is acting to save us. God, we believe, holds out the promise of eternal life. And for Christians hope is not about wish fulfilment. It’s not saying, “I hope I will win the lottery this week”. It’s not about what we want, as if we were to say, “I hope that Wales gets through to the final this year”. Hope is based instead upon God’s action in Jesus Christ. In other words, Christians believe that because Jesus was born in Bethlehem the word of God came and dwelt among us, because Jesus died on the cross, carrying all the failure and sin of the world, because God rose again in Jesus to new life, we have a hope which is based on God’s actions on our behalf.
Christians believe that the truth about life, the universe and the nature of God is revealed in those actions and we have hope because God’s plans for us are for life and not destruction; for fullness of life, abundance of life as Jesus said in his teaching.
So my message to you this Advent is quite simply this – I hope that God will be manifest in your lives and in your churches this Christmas. And I hope that you can become a place of hope. That when people come to church they know that they will find hope in God’s service, in God’s message, in God’s saving power.
I wish you a very blessed Advent and a happy forthcoming celebration of Christmas.
Bishop Gregory, Llanelwy
Rev Adam Pawley