Stephen’s Letter

Dear Friends.

This Advent we are taking the themes of Hope, Peace, Love and Light in our morning services.  “Well,” you might ask, “what is the connection with those words and the coming of Jesus at Christmas?”  I suppose that I should say, “Come and listen to the preachers each Sunday in Advent!”  But I thought I’d set the ball rolling with this letter, just to raise your levels of anticipation!

Hope

In our faith we talk of a sure and certain hope – this is different from the sort of hope we have if we’re hoping that the x14 bus will turn up on time or if we’re hoping for a pair of socks this Christmas!  The sure and certain hope of our faith is to be found in Christ.  It is, perhaps, a bit like the hope that the tide will come in at the sea side.  We know it will – and we know our hope in Jesus is never misplaced.  In the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) the prophets speak of their hopes for the future.  Christ fulfils their prophesies and becomes, for us, the source of a sure and certain hope.  Without Christmas that hope would not have been realised.

Peace

Peace is so much needed in our world – as we live through Advent we think of hunger caused by war in the Yemen, of the conflict in Syria which has made so many people suffer over the past years.  Can we remember, this Advent, that Jesus is described as the “Prince of Peace”?  He is the one who will bring a new understanding of what it means to be a king – Jesus, the King, who relies not on armies and control, but on grace and love.  The angels could not hold in their wonder at Jesus’ birth, “Glory to God in the highest,” they sang, “and Peace among those who he favours!”

Love

Love is the main focus of the familiar reading in 1 Corinthians 13.  Without love, our actions, our lives – the drama and the day to day realities of our lives – are as nothing.  Love knits our lives together, and the source of that love is God who “so loved the world that He sent his only Son.”  A carol says, “Love came down at Christmas.” This Advent we are reminded that Jesus is love incarnate.

Light

I suppose the most obvious two quotes for light are from John’s gospel chapter one: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never extinguished it” and also the reading from Isaiah where we are promised “I will make you a light to the nations.”  This is, of course, what Jesus became for us – a light for us, showing us the way.  Even in the depths of winter, in those long Advent nights, the light still shines!  There is a sense in which the first part of John 1, is the nativity from the point of view of God (rather than the human perspective in Matthew and Luke).  Here we see that, at Christmas, the Word is made flesh and that Word (Jesus) is the light of the world.

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I hope your Advent this year is filled with hope, peace, love and light!  And that Christmas, when it comes, will remind you again that wrapped up in the baby, born in Bethlehem, is all the hope, peace, love and light we will ever need!

With love,

Stephen