Preparation for Advent: Sunday 10th November, by Mike.
Advent is a time of preparation leading up to Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus to whom the title ‘Christ’ was given from the very earliest days. ‘Christ’ is the Greek a translation of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’ meaning ‘the anointed one’. The earliest gospel sources were written in Greek. Christmas means ‘Christ’s Mass’ – a service of Holy Communion (see: https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/what-we-believe/eucharist) celebrating the birth of Jesus.
The season of Advent starts this year on 1st December, the first Sunday in Advent, and finishes on Christmas Eve; but in earlier times and in some areas it lasted for 40 days, starting on 15th November. Just as Lent is a period of preparation for Good Friday and Easter, so is Advent a period of preparation. Jesus was prepared for his public ministry by spending 40 days ‘in the wilderness’ (there is a lot of wilderness and desert in the region), so some people felt that a similar period was appropriate for both Advent and Lent.
For the three weeks leading up to Advent we shall be looking at some of the Prophecies written in the eighth century BCE in the book of Isaiah. (See: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaiah). People who know Handel’s great oratorio ‘The Messiah’ will know musical settings of some of these prophecies (see: https://www.classicfm.com/composers/handel/music/george-frideric-handel-messiah/). Our first prophecy is one of promise and of hope:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God, speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 40:1-5)
Isaiah looks forward to a time when God will come to earth, bringing peace and joy, and when the failings of humankind will be forgiven, but it also urges us to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’. Christians see Jesus as the fulfilment of this dream – born into a human family and dying for our sins. The Advent season is therefore a season of hope. Here is a short prayer to help us in our preparation to welcome the new-born child into our hearts:
Our God and Father, help us to prepare a highway for Jesus to enter our hearts. May his love feed us and flow out through us. Amen.