This is the time of the liturgical year of our church when we collectively affirm the authority of Christ in all heaven and in all earth. Our church year ends with that powerful proclamation. We come to Advent Sunday, the beginning of a new year, and we begin symbolically in darkness and with empty hands. The church year begins with us affirming our need of God and our need for Divine light. This is a time when as a church we say collectively that we are poor in Spirit and in need of God, as I referred to in relation to the Beatitudes from the last Bishop’s letter. We call upon God for the grace to bring light to our darkness.
This is an important time for our Church, because this proclamation of truth is one we must live in at all times. That’s how our liturgical seasons work; they re-sharpen and re-focus us for the deep, deep inner truths that we need to live out in our own flesh, every day.
Please do not miss the grace of this season. I want to ask you all to take time this week to let go all that you would claim to be yours, so that you can empty your hands, say afresh “our hands were empty and you filled them”, and so that you are free to call out “come, Lord Jesus”.
In Advent, we turn our eyes to the light; in hope, in trust, and in joy. The first way that we always do that is in prayer. The church does not make sense if it is not a place of profound and deep prayer; for prayer is that yearning and calling towards God. One of the analogies for me of the church is the karanga – when the women call to each other, they are weaving the rope that pulls the waka out of the sea, so that beings which are two separate communities are able to become one. The church is that interwoven rope, formed in the karanga call of God, and formed as the people of the earth call back to the God who first calls to them. Call and response is the long tradition of God to the earth and the earth to God.
So please hear my urging of you to enter into Advent in deep prayer – to pray the song of Zachariah, for the tender mercy of our God on high to break upon us and to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79). Alongside this we also hear the song of Mary, in which her acceptance of partnership with God includes the call for God to fulfil that which only God can do: ‘he has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.’ (Luke 1:52-53).
Both Bishop Justin and myself are deeply thankful for being alongside such a community of concerted and diverse prayer. To help you in this season, ‘here’s one we prepared earlier:’ – a video from Justin and I around prayer. Please hold Justin in your prayers as he and the family begin the transition back into Diocesan life at the end of the month, after their sabbatical. Thank you also for your hospitality and prayer this year, for my family and myself. As we journey to England to reconnect with family and for me to take part in the Bishops’ course at Canterbury Cathedral, I am thankful for the much wider Anglican family of which we are all a part.
I want to encourage you at the end of this church year and the beginning of another, to locate yourself in a place of prayerful anticipation and prayerful intercession, and prayerful acceptance of Christ in whose light we live.