We live in a different world to twenty years ago in so many ways. Ours is a rapidly changing context. You don’t need me to remind you that being a Christian today is becoming increasingly challenging.
Some of my friends talk about finding ourselves in a new landscape, but even that suggests more continuity than we can realistically rely upon. Its strikes me that seascape may be a more appropriate descriptor; where the wind and waves mean our environment and sense of stability is up and down constantly, where being told to ‘fix your eyes on the horizon’ is constantly threatened and maintaining a clear sense of direction requires continual attention.
And yet when I read, as no doubt we shall re-read this Advent, the episode in the Bible describing the events surrounding the birth of Jesus as a human being and the light of the world, my world appears tame by comparison. I want to be as authentic a follower of Jesus Christ as possible, and guess what? Whenever people encounter Jesus, as he truly is, and respond by receiving his life by the Holy Spirit into theirs, they want the same thing.
Christmas is coming and once again presents us with the reality of the best of times and the worst of times. Whatever our experience or situation, Christmas is for Christians, the time of year which provides the greatest opportunity for conversations, meals, coffees, or mulled wine around who Jesus is and what his place in our lives is. At a time when who we are shouts louder than what we preach (or people perceive we preach), we need to bring some authenticity into view in this unreliable world.
Advent is my favourite spiritual season of the year. It’s probably also the hardest season in which to find time for anything, and certainly impossible to find time for everyone or everything. That’s why I need to practice. The definition of practise: ‘the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it’. Practising for Christmas is about nurturing those practices, which become good habits in our lives and result in lives which reflect the light of the world; Jesus Christ.
Practising for Christmas is all about re-living the Christmas story through the lives of the characters we discover around the birth of Jesus. How does it work? Each day of Advent you will be invited to read a small part of one of the familiar passages from scripture related to Jesus’ coming into the world. Alongside this you can read a short reflection, which will highlight a particular ‘practice’. This is solely to get you started around the discipleship cycle, which my hope and prayer is will lead you on from merely listening for God’s voice in today’s turbulent sea. By listening I pray you will hear the voice of God. By looking I pray you will discern what next step you need to take to practice whatever that day’s focus is on. By living I pray you will faithfully act on what you have heard. By learning I pray you will become more like Jesus. Why? Because our world in darkness needs to see Him.