Advent Week 4 – Love

We light the fourth Advent Candle for Love. A God who is love, who sent a Son that in the fullness of time would sanctify the entire world. A love of God that underpinned Mary and Joseph’s trust in one another and the Divine Will. And a love that sustains Christians all over the world as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation and Birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (KJV)

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God our Father,
you sent your Son
to free mankind from the power of death.
May we who celebrate in the coming of Christ as man
share more fully in His divine life,
for He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Advent Week 3 – Joy

And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said,

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:39-45 (KJV)

We light the third Advent Candle for Joy. Joy that our God loves us so much as to send his only Son to save us from our sin. Joy that Jesus comes as the Messiah and is the Lamb of God, freely giving Himself for our salvation. And joy for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, when we will all come together in praise of our Lord.

Joy is much more than happiness but at the same time it is not an increase of happiness in any way. In fact, joy and happiness are two completely different things. Happiness can be achieved through many means. It can be achieved while doing good things and while doing bad things. This is why giving some money at Christmas makes us happy, and so does drinking a glass of fine whiskey. Getting rich and living comfortably can also make us happy. But none of these things on their own bring us joy. Happiness is fleeting, joy is everlasting. That is certainly a major difference between the two.

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Joy erupts when what makes us happy is coupled with satisfaction. And not the shallow satisfaction that is linked with gratification in our modern consumer culture, but the true satisfaction of a held need– not to be confused with desire. We have a need for food and sustenance, we feel a certain sense of joy when that need is met with good, healthy food and even better when that food is joined with good company. This is when two needs of ours are met, which is undoubtedly why food and company go hand in hand.

The baby John inside of Elizabeth leaped for joy at the presence of the Lord. This was because even the child John was aware of its purpose to herald the coming of the Lord to the people of Israel. He didn’t know in the sense of knowledge and being able to articulate it– that would be silly, he is a mere baby in a womb at this point. But his spirit is alive and it is in his spirit that we find the deep need for God that the presence of the Lord immediately fills. This filling of the deep spiritual need is what draws the baby to leap with joy inside of his mother.

We approach this Gaudet Sunday with our hearts, minds and souls transfixed on the joy that the Lord brings by His mere presence. We are reminded in the Gospel reading of Christ demonstrating that He is in fact the Messiah, the one spoken about by John, because of the things He has done– things we can all bear witness to ourselves. The joy that comes from Christ is rooted in His incarnation and presence here on Earth as man, that is the meaning of joy within the season Advent.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has looked with favour on His lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name. He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation. He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has come to the help of His servant Israel, for He has remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and His children for ever. Amen.

Advent Week 2 – Faith

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38 (KJV)

We light the second Advent Candle for Faith. Faith that all things are possible with God, faith that He has a divine plan for each and every one of us that sees salvation for every man willing, and faith that we who repent and seek the Kingdom of Heaven will one day live everlasting with God, our Father.

While are first movements toward the birth of Christ come in the fuel of hope, the rhythm and cycle that we move into becomes our faith. Faith is much more than the belief in something that cannot be proven. Faith is about knowing by means which otherwise give us little indication of how the world works. I know my mother and father love me, I have faith that they love me, I cannot see this love, I cannot feel this love, I cannot even measure this love, but I am aware of it being present and its impact in my relationship with my parents. Faith and love share a unique relationship (more on that in a future Advent post).

Mary had faith in spades. When she was visited by an angel from the Lord she did not refute what was being told of her, no matter how wild it seemed from a logical perspective. Mary was a virgin and yet Mary was to have a child. And an elder of the area, a previously married man, is to take Mary and they are to have a son together that will be named Jesus. And not just that but her cousin, who is barren, will also have a child. She doesn’t question, she doesn’t waver– no doubt there are parts of her that want to– she simply says, “be it unto me according to thy word.” That is faith.

Sailors have faith. They depart safe harbours which are close to their family and friends and head out on small islands into wild seas. They have faith that their ships will keep the deadly water out. Faith that their captain can keep them away from trouble no matter what the weather throws at them. And faith that with each passing day they get closer and closer to being back in a safe harbour, with family and friends. Mary’s journey with Joseph feels a lot like a sailor departing on a long sail without little knowledge of where they are going and what they are doing while out there. But they have faith, and put that faith into the hands of their captain. To stress the analogy, Mary’s captain is God Himself. That is faith.

Almighty and merciful God,
let neither our daily work nor the cares of this life
prevent us from hastening to meet your Son.
Enlighten us with your wisdom
and lead us into his company.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.