It’s been a lot, lot longer since my last post than I ever anticipated. There may even be some folk out there who have been impatiently waiting for my next instalment of random, rambling thoughts. If so, I apologise for having kept you waiting! You see, waiting is somewhat on my mind at the moment.
It is, of course, the season of waiting at the moment. We are in Advent, the time in the Christian calendar when we explore with some seriousness the waiting contained in our faith. As Christians we are, of course, always waiting for the new creation to be fully present, for that which is now and not yet to simply be now. But the run-up to Christmas gives us an opportunity to explore more fully how that waiting should be done – for our waiting must be participatory rather than passive – we are called to be part of the now while looking forward to the not yet, to herald the not yet while living in the now. I’ve had the joy of hearing some really good Advent sermons this year (I just hope those who heard me preach on the one occasion I preached this Advent can say the same!) that have helped me consider more deeply the nature of that waiting, and how I might help others explore such waiting in future years.
Of course, the reason waiting is so in the minds of folk at this time of year is because we are approaching Christmas. While we all like to think of Christmas as being a wonderful time of year the reality is that for many it can be really difficult, just as it was for Mary and Joseph, just as the Archbishop of Canterbury reminds us here. We all have our preconceptions about Christmas, as the President of Conference mentions here, preconceptions that may well be based somewhat in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol (which I read for the first time this vacation – brilliant, powerful, moving), but end up with us being so caught up in them that we can lose sight of the what we are celebrating (that God became weak for the sake of us) and what it means for us (that we must take up our own cross and follow the one who was born and died and rose again for us).
And it is this following Christ’s call that weighs most heavily on my mind at the moment. You see, this Advent is, for this household and for a number of others around us, about waiting not just for Christmas, or just for the coming of Christ in glory, but for a point a little beyond Christmas. Yes, we are looking forward to Christmas, which will be the first time we have spent the day completely in our own residence (our family visits will take place in the week following). And, yes, we of course look forward to the day when the Kingdom is fully present rather than simply glanced in the wonderful actions of those who are moved not just to tears but to actions. But we also await news of a more pressing kind. On Thursday 5th January the committee that will decide where we will spend what is hoped to be the next 5 years of our lives meets. That evening we will be told by our Principal where I am being stationed as I serve my first years as a Presbyter in the Methodist Church (before and after ordination, which is scheduled currently for 2014). Most of the Anglicans I know already know where they are going to serve their curacies, and the final year Student Deacons here at Wesley have already been stationed too. Meanwhile, those of us who are called to serve as Presbyters continue to wait. It is a nervous time. We know that there is much for the Committee to consider – they are not working to find us the perfect station but to ensure that the whole group is given an appropriate opportunity to continue to develop and flourish in their ministry – if that means someone gets a stationing which is a little less than perfect for them so that someone else gets one that isn’t dreadful for them then so be it! I’m trying to fill the time with activity – some related to my own training, some related to the training of the whole of the people called Methodists in this country, some related to Christmas, and some just related to ongoing life. Next week time will be spent seeing much loved family and friends. I really am looking forward to Christmas, I always have, I enjoy it as a celebration amongst family and friends and as a focal point of the faith I have in an incarnational God. It’s just that this year there’s something else I’m looking forward to, something that I have to wait just a very little bit longer for!
Whatever you’re waiting for this Advent and Christmas, may you know God’s grace and peace both in the journey and the arrival. And in case I don’t blog again in the next couple of days, may I take this opportunity to wish you a joyful and blessed Christmas.