Advent in today’s world
Advent – a time to examine our shortcomings, to look forward and to prepare for the future. Opening the doors of Advent calendars leads our thoughts towards Christmas. In many churches people get together to plan the Christmas crib and to decorate the church.
Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. Yet it also comes as we near the end of our ‘ordinary’ year. The harvest has been gathered in, dead leaves are falling, frogs and hedgehogs are hibernating, and everything in the natural world seems to be bracing itself for the harshness of winter. As we go into the darkest days of winter Advent encourages us to look forward to nature’s re-growth in spring, and to celebrating the birth of a special baby at Christmas.
Advent — the time when Christians prepare for the coming of Jesus. But what sort of world does Christ arrive in today? A world where we people have brought the natural world – God’s creation – to the edge of destruction. So what does Advent mean in a world of changing climate, where 870 million go hungry, 2.5 billion people are without decent sanitation, and a quarter of the earth’s mammals are under threat of extinction? Christ’s coming – is it only for us humans, or for all life?
Retired Anglican minister and CEL member Keith Innes spent the first years of his retirement noting ‘green pointers for preachers’ for our lectionary readings – you can find them on the CEL website at www.greenchristian.org.uk. For the fourth Sunday in Advent Keith writes ‘Because the Son of God is also the descendant of King David, born of Mary, rooted in our space and time, his salvation is for now as well as for all eternity. He has touched our world so that it can never be the same again. The creation has an added sacredness because his divine presence has been here, and is still here through the Spirit. By his offering of himself we are brought near to God and enabled to serve God.’
If Christ comes at Christmas for all life can we use Advent to reflect on how our actions are contributing to the well-being of all life on earth? Can we think of ways we can be more considerate in caring for God’s creation? On a global level the annual United Nations international climate talks are taking place inDohaas you read this magazine. And preparations are underway for a focus on water as the UN’s theme for 2013. They have hopes that by 2015 90% of the global population will use improved drinking water, but decent sanitation remains a huge problem. As Archbishop Rowan Williams said at a meeting inNew Zealandin November, ‘Running out of a world to live in is a mark of our unfaithfulness. … Followers of Christ should not shrug our shoulders when we are asked why there is not sufficient food or safe, clean water. That is not what Christians should be. That is why this is a matter of faithfulness to our Creator and Redeemer.’