Sunday 28th November (Advent 1)
Jeremiah 33.14-16; Luke 21.25-36
by Adam Biddlestone
Here we are again, in the run up to Christmas. Bristol Christmas Market is open again, adverts for booking Christmas parties and meals are displayed outside pubs and restaurants, decorations are appearing in homes, shops and streets. Soon, cards will be dropping on doormats, presents will be wrapped and opened. Due to restrictions last Christmas, there will be an additional focus on gathering and celebrating this year, bringing joy to some but additional pressures to others.
As Christians, we make our preparations during the season of Advent. The Circuit resources this year are encouraging and exploring connections between Advent and homelessness, and the wonder that God moved into our neighbourhood at Christmas (John 1: 14, The Message) as we journey towards Christmas.
In all our preparations, worship and celebrations we need to be mindful of those for whom this Christmas period will bring additional stress and pressure, including those living with mental health issues, the lonely and isolated, the unemployed and those on low levels of income, those living in abusive relationships, the bereaved, the homeless…. We need to be mindful of those for whom the pressures of this season will result in worsening mental health, relationships becoming more abusive and strained, some will sink further into addiction, debt or loneliness and some will become homeless. Many of these issues are interlinked and people will be living with more than one, each issue having a negative impact on others. How can we bring words and signs of hope to the most vulnerable?
Jeremiah’s words brought hope to God’s people, living in exile, that His promises to His people will be fulfilled, that they will be saved and live in safety once again.
In the Gospel reading Jesus talks about signs of the end times, reminding us that the Kingdom of God is near. ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with …. the anxieties of life and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap’ (v 34).
There is also a warning, signalling hope, ‘Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen…’ (v 36).
Advent prepares us to look back at Christ’s coming as the Bethlehem baby and forward to His coming again in glory, to the time Jesus speaks of, ‘to that time when they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’
What signs of hope can we offer through the Christmas story? What issues may those we will gather alongside be living with?
In our preparations and giving how can we support the work of The Methodist Centre and other organisations, as churches and individuals, this Christmas? How can our action and generosity be transformed into signs of hope for those who are homeless, lonely and in need this Christmas?