Before I say anything else, I would like to thank our choir, Richard and Katherine for their contribution to a beautiful act of worship. It’s lovely to have the chance to sing the Advent music and to hear some choral pieces once again…
Along with all the rehearsals, printing, organization and effort has been prayer for this service and those who will come. Prayerful anticipation is one of the things I like about the Evening service. Occasionally, when someone else is on duty, I am able to sit in the congregation, in silence.
Before the service starts I enjoy that sense of waiting on God, of peace and preparing for worship. It’s a great luxury too not having to be rushing around connecting up microphones and checking robes, but just preparing to be in God’s presence.
A sense of prayerful anticipation is central to the whole meaning of Advent. Advent comes from the Latin for arrival and these four weeks are a preparation for the arrival of Christ. This service offers the chance to get away from the hectic shopping and preparation, to come to church and be still, to prepare for Christ’s coming amongst us.
In doing so, we think of the Old Testament people of Israel as they waited for Christ. Remember the first part of Handel’s Messiah, or this evening’s antiphons and readings. They all look forward to Jesus coming, all speak of the Advent of the Saviour
In some parts of the Hebrew Bible the prophecy is clear, and amazingly accurate, like in the servant songs of Isaiah. Elsewhere, foresight seems to happen like a flash of light in the darkness. The prophet speaks of his own time and own people, but suddenly a glimpse of the future bursts through; and then, like a torch’s beam flashing one way and the next, it is gone. And yet other times, Christ seems to be spoken of mysteriously, allegorically, through symbol
When books were bound using thread and not glue, preachers would often refer to this as the scarlet cord throughout the Old Testament. Just as the thread passed through every page, binding them together, so the life, death and resurrection of Jesus could be found throughout Scripture. It was a unifying theme, God’s plan, binding history together.
So God spoke to his people, showing them what was to come. The light of his Son would shine forth in the world’s darkness. But in the meantime, they would have to watch and wait. Patience would rest on God’s promises.
We need that patient, eager anticipation too. At this time of year we wait for Christmas. But Advent has a double meaning. We also look forward to Christ’s return. His presence in our hearts will one day be real throughout all creation. Now we see signs of God’s Kingdom, but one day it will be everywhere. What we see now through a glass darkly will one day be face to face.
Advent is a season of hope, an encouragement to be patient and faithful, a reminder to live by faith in God’s promises, until one day, the Morning Star will rise in our hearts and all creation join in with the ‘Amen’.