St Denys' and St Mark's Joint Benefice

  • The Rectory
  • Mayfield Road
  • Rotherfield
  • East Sussex
  • TN6 3LU

01892 852536
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December 2018

We are fast approaching the season of Christmas and in the weeks leading up to it a great deal of time and effort will be put into preparing for the day.  The hope, of course, is that it will be a wonderful celebration amongst family and friends.  I, like many of you, look forward in anticipation to enjoying the various activities connected with Christmas.

In the last few weeks, we are beginning to see the various ‘Christmas’ adverts on our television screen.  Over the years the sentiment behind these adverts has changed; instead of trying to entice and sell us various products, it seems they want to sell us an emotion or feeling that will resonate with us.  For example; one company have produced a moving advert which references the state of the planet and the need to care for the environment.  I imagine they are trying to portray themselves as caring and of thinking like us, in the hope that we think well of them and purchase what they have to offer.

Of course, Christmas doesn’t have to have meaning in order to celebrate it, but I do believe people are looking for good reasons to do something.  They want a higher value, especially when many have little reason to celebrate and face such world poverty.

For the church there is much to celebrate during the season of Christmas.  The coming of Jesus is central to it’s understanding of who God is and his birth mark’s the beginning of this revelation.  Jesus, as God’s son (“the Word”) comes into our world and becomes one of us.  In theological terms this process is known as the incarnation and this belief is revealed in the closing reading from our carol services: 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (The Gospel of John)

God steps into humanity and becomes one of us in order to redeem us, something we also recall at Easter.  Whilst Christmas celebrations continue, and evolve, the story remains the same.  Some 2,000 years a family with all the pressures of their age, celebrate the birth of a child, with all the hopes and aspirations such an event brings.  This still resonates with many today.  The story of Christmas has stood the test of time and has been a source of inspiration and hope for many throughout the years.  It was such a story that brought moments of peace to those who faced each other across the trenches.  It was for a while, “peace and goodwill to all mankind.”  And each year, we celebrate a God-given opportunity to reflect on what peace might be across the world.

Such an event needs proper preparation and this is why the season of Advent is so important, but sadly often overlooked in the ‘rush’ of pre-Christmas.  You see Advent (meaning: ‘coming’) causes us, not just to look back, but to look forward with hope and anticipation; something we desperately need in our world at such times.  And whilst people may be seeking to save the planet, we need someone to save both the planet and people.  The Christian hope is that the Saviour and Creator of the world will one day return and put everything as it should be.

During the season of Advent, we are encouraged to look back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns. 

In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel, 
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.