Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and therefore the beginning of a new Christian year; it is appropriate, therefore, that the Advent Conspiracy studies should invite us to explore what it means to “worship fully”. The key word for this first Sunday of Advent is of course HOPE, and that too is most important.
There is one thing we need to be clear about; Advent is not Christmas. One of the problems we have at this time of year is that Advent is largely absorbed as part of Christmas, so that by the time Christmas actually arrives, many of us are ready to move on – although not before the presents are distributed! What we miss out on is Advent as an important time of preparation.
We have heard the story so many times that I suspect, in many respects, that we no longer hear it. In other words, we need to find ourselves in the story, for we are all there. Think, for example, of Mary’s song, the Magnificat. Where do we fit in that story? The words are beautiful; but they are also quite hard hitting, and not least in terms of the rich and the poor. We no longer catch the irony of one who called himself “the Good Shepherd”, or the fact that it was shepherds, perhaps the most marginalised people of that time, who were the first to worship at his cradle. What does that say to us? Because we could so easily find ourselves on the wrong side of the Song, we might try to put our assumptions aside, and let the story speak to us in a fresh way.
There is an important quote from Mark Labberton:
This disparity between economics and justice is an issue of worship. According to the narrative of Scripture, the very heart of how we show and distinguish true worship from false worship is apparent in how we respond to the poor, the oppressed, the neglected, and the forgotten.
In other words, justice and mercy are not add-ons to worship or just the consequences of worship; they are “intrinsic to the worship of God”.
We are therefore invited to reflect on some key questions and issues; for example:
What can we do to recapture the sense of wonder and gratitude?
What practical choices do we need to make to ensure that the Christmas season remains a time of focussed worship?
This is about “entering the story of Jesus more deeply with a desire to worship more fully. It is not enough to say ‘no’ to the way Christmas is celebrated by many; we need to say ‘yes’ to a different way of celebrating”.
Clive W Ayre