Canon Roy Arnold
Today we begin another year in the long history of the Christian Church on this Advent Sunday 2015… but first there is a farewell to note today… because this is Angela’s last Sunday with us before she moves to Hampshire to be near her son Simon in his new home at Upham, near where Mike Hall used to live.
Angela came to Bollington to look after her young grandsons – now fine young men – after the sad death of their mother and not so long after the death of her own husband John who was Vicar of a lively Church in Hounslow in the Diocese of London.
Her introduction to Bollington was by Jessie Beard on the doorstep with a cake, more than 20 years ago, since when Angela – in her own quiet way – has added her friends in Bollington to a wide range of friends elsewhere. And as well as looking after her family (some of them in Australia and some near Bristol) she has sailed up the Amazon and to the Galapagos Island as well as frequent visits to the Isle of Wight.
I would like to personally thank Angela for her generosity (not least to St Oswald’s Church) and to us, and no doubt many of you as well, for her Prayers and for her friendship. We wish you well Angela in your new home although we shall miss you, and we hope you will pop back to see us often.
The picture shows Angela (second left) standing by the handrails at the chancel steps.
Her gift to the parish, much appreciated by many of us!
Appropriately enough, turning to our Reading for this Advent Sunday, we read of St Paul thanking God for dear friends in Thessalonia and saying how much he has been missing them and hoping for their return. And on the subject of a returning friend he goes on to remind us of the important teaching of the Church that one day Jesus himself is going to return, not as a baby again but as our Judge.
Despite the fact that most of our great Advent hymns remind us of this Second Coming of Jesus (to judge both the living and the dead) we always seem to end up with Advent as a preparation for Christmas, rather than the Second Coming of Jesus. Yet as we avidly watch the news on TV night after night, we may well wonder what our world is coming to. But then we are normally rescued from such shock and awe with yet another advert or shopping at Sainsburys or Strictly Come Dancing… unaware of the trap that awaits us, which is the Doomsday trap.
Surprisingly the early Christians stood up and raised their heads because they believed that their redemption was drawing near. 2000 years later – perhaps tired of waiting – we get on with other things, and leave all this End of the World business to such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I rather believe it is not to be ignored not least because it is a significant part of the teaching of Jesus; foretelling that He will come again and to all people who live on the face of the earth and we will all stand before him as our Judge.
The question is… what will he judge us on? I guess the answer to that will be on the evidence of the way we have lived our lives, and such things as love and simple kindness and forgiveness.
Psalm 90 advises to count our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom, which might be a good idea so that we may love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Our Post Communion Prayer for today when we get to it reminds us, not to be dozing in sin but to be active in God’s service and joyful in his praise, which I believe Jesus wants his Church to be; doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
As to whether Heaven exists (or not) is a matter of faith and hope, but if heaven does exist, how can we ensure that we actually get there. Perhaps shocking to us, the young Muslim gunmen in Paris last Friday but one believed that it was by killing their perceived enemies and then themselves into the bargain that was for them they believed, a guaranteed way to heaven. But we have been taught differently; that our way to heaven is the way of love – by being peacemakers and thirsty for right and justice to prevail, and by being merciful and kind.
And so in this season of Advent when we consider the thought of God’s judgement of us all and when our politicians are pondering whether to bomb ISL, we pray that they may judge aright and not least remembering St Paul (quoting the Old Testament) may bear in mind the words “vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay.”
Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay.
It is God who will have the last say.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.