This week we have started the advent journey and it is easy to be swept away by the tinsel, trees and preparations for Christmas itself. I believe that Advent is a really important journey, sometimes busy and challenging, which gets us ready to open our hearts to one another and God. So what can you do this year to make a difference?
Many people know all about growth-mindset – the sense that we should be resilient and see that our ability and intelligence can grow from what we learn and even from our mistakes. We are all willing, as parents and teachers, to praise our children for their efforts, commitment and hard work. What could be different when we start to think about developing a growth heart-set?
At the moment there seems plenty that people can disagree on, whether it be their view on Brexit or projections for what life holds in the future for all of us. I always believe that there is always more, in our humanity, that unites us than divides us but we need to approach life with an open mind and open heart.
The challenge is for us is to think about how we can live this out in Advent this year. In the most basic way Christians believe that God is the source of love and this is everlasting and unconditional. This can inspire and challenge us to act in a loving way in any way we can.
A few questions to consider.
What can you do to try to respond in the most loving way even when things are tough?
What would it mean to have a growth heart-set for you this year?
On the advent journey or over the Christmas period what would it look like to give the gift of love to those around you?
I hope and pray that all of you have a peaceful, prayerful and happy Advent journey and that all of us can simply open our hearts to one another and God’s plan for all of us.
In the current Gospel readings we are challenged to think about how we will be ready for Jesus to come into the world.
In the Gospel account Jesus says “In those days after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven.” It as an apocalyptic scene where we are challenged to think of the end of the world and judgement. Later in the same reading Jesus talks of the fig tree and recognising when it flowers that summer is near… perhaps a gentler image!
It makes me think about a few things…
What can we do to read the signs of the times and recognise when things change in our lives?
What does it mean for us to judged or accountable at the end of our lives or the end of time?
How can we live our lives in a way that we are ready to meet God face to face?
What can we do to be ready to welcome Jesus into our lives in a fresh and new way during our advent journey?
Ultimately this is part of what I believe we are doing… we can easily be lured into the Christmas hustle and bustle or our old routines with watching the latest festive advert – even if it came out before December has even begun! We are challenged to think in a far deeper to spot how we can prepare to welcome Jesus in a real and present way into our lives.
If we can do this the journey of advent will be a real gift to us and help us grow in our love and understanding of each other and God – perhaps the greatest gift I could imagine…
We are challenged this week to think where to find Jesus. There may well be three opportunities we can think of…
In the past – 2,017 years, 11 months and 2 weeks ago (roughly)!! The image of the Son of God born in the humble surroundings of the manger and recreated in thousands of primary school nativity plays in the coming week.
In the future – when the Kingdom of Heaven is completed here on Earth. This is when the Kingdom of God is lived out in the world.
In the present – in the form of those in need in society and the most vulnerable who Jesus served in His life. We are challenged to find opportunities to bring light and hope to the world we live in and serve those most vulnerable, suffering or rejected.
Advent is a journey and time to get ready to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus. It is an opportunity to put our lives in order to do this. This is why this week we have the opportunity to think about reconciliation. In the sacrament of reconciliation we always have a path back to God by seeking forgiveness, the first step in recognising where we have gone wrong. We need to make peace with one another and with God if we are to truly open our hearts to Jesus this Christmas.
John the Baptist called people to turn away from sin and be prepared for the Lord. We can do this by choosing to turn away from the things that hold us back and looking to focus on how we can live our lives making a more positive contribution to the world that we live in.
A few questions for the week ahead…
Where are we proudest of the difference we are making? Hopefully part of this is in life at St Paul’s.
Which areas hold me back from making a positive contribution? Maybe when we are tired or don’t step back to take the long view.
What can I do to take the first steps back to God this Advent and Christmas?
Which of my relationships would benefit form reconciliation and healing? What would be the first move in making this happen?
One of the most heartening things as Christians is that God always offers fresh starts however tough things have got. We can all be reassured by this unconditional love and this truly can become the heart of our loving relationships – when we recognise this we can believe we are truly blessed.
We’re here once again – having avoided Christmas songs on the radio which seem to have been played for the last month (at least!) it is now time to throw ourselves into Advent and get ready. It is perhaps a well timed theme as at time at this time of year we are tired and busy, yet we are challenged to step back and put our lives in order. This in a very basic way is a chance to make peace with one another and with God.
We are challenged to get ready and prepare to meet Jesus in a new way, to be able to build the Kingdom of God in all we do. It is perhaps easy to think about how we get ready and prepare for Christmas and relive the nativity scenes we are so familiar with. It may be more challenging to think about how we get ourselves to be ready for when Jesus comes again or when we meet God face to face. Is our life in order for this ultimate moment?
In essence we need to be ready, to live our lives in the right way and keep a clear focus. This has a real resonance with us working in school. It is true to say that it would be challenging to doze off in the fast paced life of school but we need to really keep sharp. We can’t drop things for a moment without it having a real effect on our students, colleagues or even the basic foundations of what makes our school happy and safe. Whether it’s striving for happiness, teaching to our best or safeguarding all in our community, we know that if we lose focus then things start to go wrong.
So in the week ahead, and final weeks of this term, let us all stay sharp, stay focussed and stay awake to do our best in each of our roles at St Paul’s and ultimately build God’s Kingdom in small steps each day.
Reflections on staying awake:
When am I at my most drowsy / most easily distracted / most vulnerable to slipping up?
How do I guard against falling asleep at the wrong time / getting distracted / going the wrong way?
What might be about to happen in my life and how am I going to prepare for it?
How can I be prepared to be ready for Jesus to come into my life this Christmas and beyond?
So we are here already – in the life of the Catholic church we have already just started a new year in the 3 year liturgical cycle. We are also being challenged to get ready and be prepared.
So what are we getting ready for?
We know it is coming towards Christmas when we see the latest Christmas advert that has become a great British tradition. It can start the feeling of hope, anticipation and preparing something special for all of us and our families, a special time for all of us.
In essence this is what the Gospel is challenging us to do too… we need to be prepared and get ready. This isn’t just for one big day of indulgence or sharing presents but actually for the coming of Jesus into the world.
We are challenged to embark on a journey to get ready to welcome Jesus into our lives in a new way. It is an opportunity to get our lives in order, to pray and put things in perspective.
This in the most basic way could be the best present this Christmas, the gift of faith could last far longer than our discarded gifts or full stomachs.
I hope and pray this advent we can be blessed by renewed faith and hope in our lives and light in the world around us.
This Sunday we had the opportunity to celebrate Bible Sunday – on our journey in advent we can think about how we have a positive impact on all those we meet as Christians. The word Gospel means Good News and this is what the life of Jesus was going to be all about.
The Gospel reading was the account of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, who said “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” Maybe it may have been tempting for John it take the glory and attention but instead he played a key role in preparing the way for the life of Jesus. Maybe we sometimes have to recognise we are only a small “link in a chain”, the most inspiring people I have ever met spend time building others up and looking for them to take the plaudits and avoiding the limelight personally as an individual. We need to lead, teach and learn in a way that serves others and improves the lives of those around us.
But turn on the news each day and we do not often see “good news stories”… We are challenged to create our Good News story in our lives in some small way… maybe at times we are waiting for someone else to take a lead or make the first move. We have a chance this Christmas to share some light and hope with those around us. I think all of us can do this, not only with grand gestures but with the smallest things. We have done this during this Advent by looking to donate to the Giving Tree which could make a real difference this Christmas. I was so proud to see students quietly bringing gifts down to donate today – without fuss or reward, knowing it could make a real difference in our local community.
As Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world…” So let’s all spread the Good News this Christmas.