On a beautiful but chilly Sunday morning we met by the river in the park.
Lighter of lights – illumine us
Fire of fires – thaw us
Power of powers – strengthen us
Lover of lovers – warm us
Teller of tales – encourage us
Destroyer of darkness – save us
Touchstone of truth – examine us
Summoner of stars – amaze us
Wellspring of wisdom – weather us
Water of life – refresh us
Dancer of days – delight in us
Breath of the universe – bless us
In the first 1200 years of Christianity the greatest feast of the year was Easter. But around 1200, Francis of Assisi taught that we didn’t need to wait for Easter for God to love us by the cross and resurrection. He thought it started with God’s love being demonstrated first and foremost by the incarnation and he popularised Christmas as the greatest Christian feast. The Franciscans realised if God had become flesh, taken on materiality, physicality, humanity, then the problem was solved from the beginning. Francis said, “Every tree should be decorated with lights to show that it’s filled with light anyway.” And that’s exactly what we do 800 years later. But remember when we speak of Advent or waiting for Christmas or preparing for Christmas, we’re not talking about waiting for the baby Jesus to be born. That’s already happened 2000 years ago. We’re in fact welcoming, the Cosmic Christ, the Christ that is for ever being born in the human soul and into history and into the whole cosmos. We do need to make room for that, because right now in our world there is no room at the inn for such mystery. We don’t see the incarnate spirit that is hidden inside of everything material. The dualism of the spiritual and material is precisely what Jesus came to reveal as untrue. Jesus came to show us that these two seemingly different worlds are and always have been one. The Western Church – both Catholic and Protestant – has always had difficulty in understanding this truth. The Eastern Church understood that through the incarnation God said yes to the material universe. God said yes to physicality. They understood the mystery of incarnation in a universal sense, and that’s what you and I, I think, are still preparing for. That’s the eternal advent. It’s always advent. We’re always waiting to see spirit revealing itself through matter. We’re always waiting for matter to become a new kind of image in which spirit is revealed. Whenever that happens you’re celebrating Christmas. Christmas became the greatest celebratory feast of Christians because it’s basically saying it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to have flesh and blood bodies, it’s good to have intellect, it’s good to have sexuality. We shouldn’t be ashamed of any of this. This is what God loves.
We ended with the following prayer, and then went to Cool River for Fairtrade coffee and lots of chat!
Bright God of Advent:
Blaze in our darkness.
Incinerate our iniquity.
Light up our road.
Riddle the ashes
of our desires.
Rekindle in us
your justice and love.