In what has been a year full of disruption, we have arrived at Advent; a time when we look back fondly at the birth of Jesus (the first coming), remembering the most humble of entrances into our world and look forward to His second coming when He will reveal His awesome power as the High Priest of Heaven.

At the moment we are a country in lockdown and are preparing for the next set of Government restrictions. Our area looks to be heading into what the Government call Tier 2 or High Alert; this will allow us to reopen our churches for public services, as long as we continue with our Covid Safe arrangements. No-one likes to have restrictions imposed; but as Christians we obey when we are working towards the common good.

On Friday we had a 24-hour day of prayer and fasting, praying for God to intercede and bring the pandemic to an end. For some outside of our Faith, they may view this as a pointless exercise; but we are like the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. We understand that God’s very Presence can makes mountains melt; He is our Creator and whatever He wills will be done. Isaiah recalls a time when God’s chosen people were living apart from God, they had lost their fear of God and Isaiah pleads for God to return. We know that God never left, God is always present, we are the ones who need to turn to God, He is always waiting, always available, always prepared to forgive and always prepared to immerse us in His love.

The psalm today compliments Isaiah’s reading, as the psalmist cries out ‘God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted.’ These cries from the Old Testament reflecting how some people remained close to God; despite large numbers abandoning their faith and fitting in with the society and cultures of the lands they had moved to (Does this sound familiar?). St Paul, in today’s second reading, thanks God for the many blessings bestowed upon the people of Corinth when they accepted Jesus as the Son of God; telling them that they will have all of the gifts they need until the last day, because when they accepted Christ they became joined to Christ as we did when we were baptised.

In our Gospel today from St Mark, Jesus tells us to be on our guard, stay awake, because we will never know when the time will come. This reinforces the message we have had from Matthew’s Gospel over the past few Sundays. People get ready, prepare for Our Saviour is coming. Advent, a word that means to come or a notable arrival. Advent declares the season before the Mass of Christ or Christmas. Advertisers tell us to prepare, get ready for the big day. They want us to spend money, and this year there is an even bigger emphasis on spending money. The lockdown has devasted many businesses, businesses of all sizes. People have lost their livelihoods; and this will lead to pressure within households. This will accentuate the difference between those who have and those who have not.

As a Christian body we are called to help wherever we can, remember the separation last week of the goats and the sheep. I believe this is a time for being responsible, this year we have the opportunity to break the cycle of commercialism and remember what Christmas is actually about. The arrival of a baby to a young mother and her husband, a mother who said yes, when she was asked to bring the Son of God into the world. The first Christmas was a simple affair . Despite being in a town full of their relatives Joseph and Mary could not find accommodation; they were forced to find a shelter to give birth to Jesus. The gifts Jesus received on that first Christmas morning were the amazement and wonder of the shepherds. The Wise men from the East brought more elaborate presents, which symbolised Christ’s Kingship and the sacrifices He would make for us.

I think this Christmas, more than any other Christmas is a time to ask, what do I really want this Christmas? For me, it would be an end to the virus, an awakening in people that other people are just as important as they are, regardless of their stature in life. A realisation that a society is only as strong as it’s weakest members and how that society looks after their vulnerable tells a lot about a society itself.

A few years ago, I asked my family that rather than give me something for Christmas then they could get me vouchers for a charity called Lend with Care (This is one of the organisations I mentioned last week). This charity gives loans to people in developing countries to start their own business up. Every so often I receive notifications of repayments and I will top up the ‘my account’ and lend to others. I recently received an update telling me that these businesses have now employed 12 people, who would previously have had no hope of being independent and supporting their own families. I was amazed at the impact a small donation has had on the lives of others. How could you positively impact on other peoples’ lives this year?

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers, and all other keyworkers, that their efforts will result in more people recovering from the virus.
  • Our priests and others who live alone; as we live through this lockdown period, may they be encouraged by our prayers.
  • Those recovering from operations, that they avoid infection and make a strong recovery.
  • For those contemplating going into debt to pay for Christmas, that they will avoid making any rash decisions.
  • For those in debt whose outlook at this time is bleak and lacking hope; that this Christmas their faith in God and their fellow man is restored.
  • Those looking for work at this time, that their efforts will be rewarded.
  • Those planning Christmas get togethers, that their plans do not put anyone else at risk.
  • Those who do not believe in God, that this time of pandemic will be a time when they turn to him for help and realise that God still believes in them.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 28th November 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.