By Archbishop Philip Freier
12 December 2022
Our Advent pilgrimage to Christmas calls for us to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the incarnation of the Messiah. We can make this pilgrimage in different ways. In churches where an Advent wreath is used to evoke a theme of hope, faith, joy and peace we can carry that reflection into our own homes and light a candle throughout the weekdays that follow. As we light a candle in our own place, the prayer of the previous Sunday can be prayed as we move deeper into that spiritual grace that is commended for our reflection that week.
Even stepping outside, contemplating the night sky, and praying “Lord what gift do I bring to you?” may serve to evoke the Journey of the Magi as an inspiration for your own pilgrimage. I’ve been told that people used to rely on hearing the Collect for the Sunday before Advent “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people” as a prompt to make their Christmas puddings. However we connect words and actions, it is clear that our Christian faith is an embodied and not just an abstract conviction.
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This is hardly surprising as the Incarnation of our Lord is God coming amongst us, “taking the form of a servant, assuming human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). In that passage, we are encouraged to “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”. Our gift of imagination, our use of symbols and associating them with the language of prayer is a powerful means for us each to enter fresh spiritual experiences within the familiar yearly round.
If the enthusiastic adoption of Halloween by many Australians is anything to go by, there is an openness to symbolic enactments in our community. It may be that the Advent wreath can become that kind of reminder in our neighbourhoods that Christmas is coming but even more so that “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. On our doors or at our table there is the opportunity that we can, through word and symbol, share the hope, faith, joy and peace that is God’s gift to us in Christ.
I hope that you will come to a joyful celebration of Christmas. With the psalmist we will, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things”. Jesus was born into a broken world and lives for the restoration of all that is marred by those old sins that have broken the heart and peace of humanity. Violence and hatred among them, have long beset our world. “The Lord remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel, and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” (Psalm 98)
Have a blessed and holy Christmas.