My car’s useful dashboard display has a section that gives a percentage reading, now about 42%, which gets lower week by week. In about 5 months it will reach zero which means an oil change is needed, the car service is due and perhaps the MOT too. With those jobs completed the reading is reset to 100% and away we go. Motorists know that the annual service and MOT aren’t the whole thing by any means. Refuelling, cleaning, insurance, repairs, tax, route finding, traffic jams and other motoring hazards all come into the picture until the next major reset.
Advent is intended to be a reset after the year from last Advent has taken us through Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and beyond, via what are known as Ordinary Sundays. On the way we keep going, helped by worship, fellowship, prayer, and service for and from others. Nevertheless, there is plenty to throw us off track in the Christian Life. Perhaps the uncertainties of life with covid, health issues, losses, disappointments, or other problems have distracted us, or we have been run ragged by the demands of life. It is time for a reset, which is why Advent was invented about 1500 years ago.
Originally the idea was to spend six weeks in self-examination and penitence before Christmas. That was dropped to four and nowadays we use the Advent ring with one candle for each Sunday, and the fifth, representing Christ, in the centre for Christmas Day. Here is how the first three Sundays work:
Advent’s first Sunday calls for watchfulness when in overwhelmingly confusing, distracting, and troublesome times. The consumer frenzy, serial partying and sometimes family tensions in December can certainly be diverting! The message is, ‘always be aware of God even in distracting times’. The second and third Sundays of Advent focus on John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus with forceful preaching and a call to commitment. Luke 3 samples John’s preaching; share with the needy, don’t be greedy and treat people honestly and with respect. The message is ‘get your life right and renew your Christian commitment’. In Methodism we usually do that in the covenant service in January or the Methodist New Year in September but why not in Advent? Just a thought. Hopefully, Advent resets our commitment to Jesus Christ in time for Christmas and beyond.
So, a blessed Advent to all.
Rev John Young