Thoughts at the end of a year

It is almost the end of another year; another church year and another calendar year. In a few weeks the new church year will be upon us – yes it is nearly Advent. This offers us a chance to reflect on what this year has offered us and what the future might bring.
Last year at this time I quoted one of the people I read when preparing my sermons. Howard Wallace is an Old Testament scholar from Australia. In talking about the Israelite journey through the wilderness into the Promised Land he writes,
It is as if the people see the gift of the land as an end in itself and the wilderness journey as simply a preliminary stage. They fail to recognise that the gift of the land is more than just ‘a good and broad land’, and the law given at Sinai, more than just a way to that land. The land is a place where the people are to live in God’s presence and know that presence in many ways. The law is their guide for living in that presence. The divine promise is, in the end, all about God’s presence with his people. That is the sum of it.”[1]
If I were to summarise the whole of the biblical story I would repeat that last sentence, “The divine promise is, in the end, all about God’s presence with his people. That is the sum of it.” Jesus coming was the ultimate expression of God’s presence with his people. God is here. All we have to do is open our eyes and pay attention.
Too often we limit Christmas to being about family, peace on earth and presents. Occasionally we put in a side helping of the baby Jesus. All of these are nice, important even. But they are not the point. Christmas is ultimately about God’s coming among us as one of us so that we might know that presence in many ways. And it includes the invitation to live in a way that others might know the hope, justice and peace that presence brings. As we look back this year I wonder in what ways you have experienced God’s presence in your life and in the life of the community around us? What ways have you lived so that others might know that presence too?
Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a time of slowing down, expectant waiting, hopeful anticipation and cheerful preparation. Unlike Lent which is more about repentance, Advent is about getting ready for the coming of Christ. Someone once described it as a time of spring cleaning getting ready for the big party. That is not to say that Christ is not with us already, but if offers us a chance to really celebrate. And it offers us a chance to ask of ourselves what celebrating Christ’s coming might mean for the way we live out our lives. What is it you notice about your life as you spring clean? What might it mean for you to live in the presence of God in the future?

May this Advent and Christmas bring you a renewed sense of God’s goodness, and may you live in ways that brings God’s peace and joy to all.



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