So we are starting again – a new start with new opportunities – No, not after “lockdown 2” – but Advent, the beginning of our Church Year, when we prepare our hearts and minds, prepare for the Coming – the Advent – of Jesus in glory and to bring in God’s Kingdom – what we are waiting for and when all the struggles and tears and wrongs of this world will be gone and true freedom, peace and living will be for all.

But Advent is also for us to prepare, again, to think about Christmas, when this same God came in human form, born of a woman after nine long months in the womb, then many years growing to adulthood, when this same God was born in Bethlehem, a real place on a real night, to a real mother.

St John calls this Incarnation – or the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

Since the Victorian era we have developed what we think is the right way to celebrate Christmas. For the first time in many or our lives, we will not be able to do it as we would like. Even with some easing of restrictions we will be limited and constrained and we will not be able to do all that we would like.

  • Can we sing carols in church? We think not.
  • Should we decorate church as normal, as if there is no problem? We don’t know yet – what do you think?
  • Will we be able to gather together to celebrate Christmas? Almost certainly any church services will be strictly limited in numbers, though St Anne’s will take more than you might think.

There are jokes going around about the Wise Men having to quarantine, the shepherds and angels told to social distance, Mary banned from travelling etc.

We will discover, maybe more deeply than ever before that Christ is the Prince of Peace, that God is with us, that light does shine in darkness and although it may appear to flicker, the darkness cannot overcome it.

We hope families and households are making an Advent Wreath, and will light a candle each week as we prepare. We have provided resources, with themes each week – Faith this week, then Hope, and then Peace and then Joy, and with Love on Christmas Day. Do use these resources and think on them. There is a brief liturgy to use when you light each candle – you can find it all here.

And for some, this Christmas will be very difficult – people we long to see are not able to come; families will be split up; there are loved ones who have died this past year, and we have not completed our mourning. We will have some lonely neighbours, and there are too many hungry people even in Bolton let alone our country and our world. As we – we pray – discover a deeper faith and peace, we must pray for those who are struggling, and think what we can do to help – in giving, and in making phone calls, sending a card, sending a gift, keeping in touch, encouraging others, listening to someone who needs to talk.

See below for Advent Resources of all kinds – please make use of them, and let us know what you think. Don’t let Advent pass without giving time for the things of God; don’t let the sadness of what we can’t do, shut off the opportunities for what we can do.

Rev’d Peter Reiss: 27th Nov 2020