This month I wish to begin my letter with a word of thanks. At the end of this month Derek Stacey and Andrew Berkley will step down from their Scouting positions. Derek has led the 20th Oldham Scout Troop from its beginning 10 years ago to where it is now. It is not possible to calculate all the time, energy and enthusiasm that Derek has passed on to the many troop members during this time. As a church we are immensely grateful to Derek and also to Dawn for supporting him in this role. Andrew has been with us for six years as scout troop leader and has been a key part of the troop. Thank you, Andrew, for all your time and commitment.
We wish Erica Ryan and the new team of leaders and helpers well, as they continue the work in which Derek and Andrew have been so much involved.
I write in the days leading up to Advent Sunday. Two of the themes that dominate the readings and prayers used during Advent are hope and time.
Firstly, hope: as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus, we may reflect again on the significance of his coming and all that means for the world. This is perhaps encapsulated in words used by Mary in her song ‘The Magnificat’, where she describes the poor being lifted up and the rich and proud being brought low. Another aspect of hope is to look at the difference Jesus’ coming can make to our lives. The changes he can make are significant: forgiveness of our failures, the chance of a new start, a new direction and purpose to life including the best use of our talents and skills.
Henri Nouwen expressed his understanding of Christmas in terms of hope:
“Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God's initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God's work, and not mine.”
The second theme is time. Firstly, we are called to wait on God. To prepare for the coming of Jesus requires us to be patient. Jesus is coming – but not quite yet!
Some of the Advent candle ceremonies involve readings from the different people who looked to the coming of Jesus well before his actual birth. The ceremonies begin on the first Sunday with ‘God’s people in every age and time’, followed by ‘the prophets’, those special messengers who were sent to speak God’s word to their people. The last two Sundays focus on people closer to Jesus’ birth; his mother, Mary, and his cousin, John the Baptist, who was to announce, through his own ministry, the ministry of Jesus.
As we enter and travel through Advent let us give ourselves time to reflect on the great hope that God’s coming in Jesus brings to us at Christmas.
With best wishes