December 2017 & January 2018

Following on?

It always feels odd writing this bit, in the middle of November, for a double issue which covers Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. And the year, the cycle is even more intense, with Lent beginning in February (Ash Wednesday Communion at St Margaret’s on February 14th at 7.30pm, since you ask). So what can one say that addresses a huge part of the Christian year?:

Well, on one level it is quite simple. Not surprising that, as the whole Christian message is, in essence, quite simple - a message of love and forgiveness. During Advent, we prepare ourselves to meet Jesus, as we celebrate an unimaginably momentous event. For at Christmas, we remind ourselves that the Word - for God was known only by word, and his followers were not allowed to make any image of Him, that Word became a human being, occupying physical space, just as we do, and moving on human feet, acting with human hands and speaking through human lips. And when we meet Jesus on Christmas Day, what does he say to us? Well, that is absolutely simple: he says to each of us ‘Follow me’. Absolutely simple, but also very discomfiting. And throughout Epiphany until the beginning of Lent, we learn what it is to follow him. We draw closer to him in prayer, in worship and in reading. In that last regard, it is, i hope, especially helpful that our Book Club choice at the moment is the Gospel according to St John. I cannot tell you how much I recommend that we all try to read that remarkable book - in one sitting if at all possible. It is truly revelatory as to what following Jesus can and should mean. 

But, of course, it does not stop there. For we also follow Jesus through Lent and on to Passiontide. We learn that love and suffering go hand in hand. For love - true love - is always self-sacrificial. And we ask ourselves what we are prepared to sacrifice, and hope that we can follow Jesus through his death on to his resurrection. For then, we no long follow the earthly Jesus: instead we follow the risen Christ, alive and active, loving and forgiving, with us at all times.

So ultimately, during these two months, we prepare to follow Jesus, and then we follow him. Simple, isn’t it? Provided, of course, that that is what we do.

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