The Seasons of Advent and Christmas bring with them new beginnings. Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year. It is a season of preparation and hope powerfully symbolised by the candles on our Advent wreath. That hope increases as we light an additional candle each of the four Sundays in Advent and reaches its climax with the lighting of the fifth (white) candle on Christmas Day. That final candle symbolises the ‘Light that has come into the world’, Jesus Christ, the foundation of our Christian hope. Then, just seven days later we will have New Year’s Day 2016, the beginning of a brand new calendar year.
But as we reflect on the hope of Advent, we will quickly come to realise that hope is what our world needs today, perhaps more than ever before. Things such as the dreadful terrorist attack on Paris on Friday 13th November; the possibility of Britain joining bombing attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria; escalating tensions and economic sanctions between Russia and Turkey over the shooting down of a Russian war-plane on the Turkish/Syrian border; the threat of increasing radicalisation of young Muslims in the West to become Jihadist and suicide bombers; the list goes on: these items dominate our news headlines. All of these ‘bad news’ stories could lead us to despair. However, there are also some signs of positivity. For instance there is the current gathering of world leaders in Paris hoping to agree action on global climate change. At last there would appear to be agreement that human activity is adversely affecting our global climate causing hardship in some of the poorest countries in the world. Droughts, severe flooding and freak weather events are attributed to this phenomenon and there is now a greater willingness to try to tackle the root causes.
Over recent months there have been a series of meetings within the United Dioceses and a year entitled ‘Come & C’ has been inaugurated. This project is intended to help individuals and parishes to fulfil their calling to discipleship. The inspiration for this initiative may be found in a diocesan Growth Forum held in 2013, which was followed by a questionnaire to all parishes. The results of this questionnaire was analysed in a report booklet which was presented to Diocesan Synods 2014. The title of the project was taken from John’s Gospel (John 1:46) when Philip told Nathaniel that he had found ‘him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ However, when Nathaniel passed a cynical comment about this statement, Philip responded by saying, ‘Come and see’. And when Nathaniel did what was suggested, he discovered for himself the truth of what Philip had said. Likewise, as people are encouraged to work out their Christian calling, it is hoped that when others are invited to ‘Come and see’ they will find something authentic and attractive that they too will want to be part. Parishes and groups of parishes are invited to plan events throughout the year which display some of the ‘Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion’. These marks are: Tell the good news; Teach (baptize and nurture new believers); Tend (respond to human need); Transform (challenge unjust structures and violence and pursue peace and reconciliation); and Treasure (safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain life on earth).
As we prepare to celebrate the season of Christmas with our families and friends, let us be mindful of those five marks of mission. Let us also be mindful of those for whom Christmas is not such a joyful time and if possible to include them if we can. May I take this opportunity on behalf of my wife, family and myself, to wish each one of you a blessed and holy Christmas and a happy New Year.
With every blessing,
Rev’d John Tanner, Rector. Tel: 289 3154 / 086 302 1376