This week marks the beginning of Advent, when we begin our journey towards Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation, and we usually understand that to be a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Traditionally in Advent we focus our preparation on the themes of peace, hope, joy and love. Today we begin with the theme of peace.
The gospel reading this morning reminds us that this time of preparation also has a future aspect. Advent is not only about the first Christmas, it is a time of deliberate preparation for the second coming of Christ, however we understand that. It is looking forward to when the reign of Christ is fully establish and all God is working for comes to be.
This morning’s gospel also reminds us that this is not a passive activity where we sit around and wait for God. This is a time of examining how we are involved in living in such a way that we point to the coming reign of Christ. We are, as Matthew says, to watch. Biblical scholar Bill Loader suggests that it is unhelpful to read this passage as “an exhortation not to misbehave in case you get 'caught with your pants down', as they say, when Jesus comes.” Instead he says “It is about developing an awareness of what the God of the future is saying and doing in the present, to take a God perspective on the issues of the day and the future and to let that happen at all levels of our reality, from our personal lives to our international community.”
Last year we set one of our parish goals to be “living incarnationally in the community”. This first Sunday in Advent is a time to ask ourselves where we see God at work bringing peace into our world and our community. More than that, we are invited into active watching, to join in that work of peace making. How do we embody the peace of God in our community?
Advent is also the time for the Christian World Service Christmas Appeal. This draws our attention to issues facing some of the poorest and most vulnerable people and invites us to take a God perspective on the issues of the day in the international community.
This year’s theme is Share Water, Share Life
Water is one of the most powerful symbols of the Christian faith and a constant throughout the Scriptures. It is a gift of God that sustains the whole of creation. But the water is running low and the costs of buying it rising. The changing climate means that farmers cannot rely on rains or the dry seasons they need to dry food for storage. Others experience massive floods, tsunami and hurricanes that kill and destroy. Cities draw much more deeply on underground aquifers or lakes and rivers for growing populations. Once clear water sources are contaminated with pollution or used for manufacturing and mass food production. Conflicts over control of water supply are intensifying. People are dying from disease caused by polluted water or thirst.
As we reflect on God’s peace, we are reminded that everyone has a stake in the management of the local water supply but who gets to make the decisions? Will some continue to miss out? What are we doing with the gift that God gives us to share? CWS partners are working hard to share water, share life. Please give generously to the 2013 Christmas Appeal to help them do their work.