Adapted from an advent thought given on Radio Ashford on 7th Decemver
Every Christmas I have a ‘Word’ which focuses my mind for the many different ‘few words’ Vicars are asked to say at School Christmas services, Carol Singing events as well as the many church services we have over the festive season at Great Chart, Singleton and St Francis South Ashford where I’m based.
I’ve had various words over the years – light, hope, glory, fear and last year it was ‘Mother’. But this year I’ve gone for a word that is as much to do with Advent, which is the season we’re actually in, as it is to do with Christmas that we celebrate later this month, and my word for this year is ‘Heaven’
I usually mull over and pray for inspiration for what word I will chose in October, and this October we were in Australia visiting our son who works out there. What an amazing place, and as we enjoyed the warmth and the extraordinary locations and reflected on it getting darker and colder back in England, my thoughts turned to Heaven!
Advent contains 4 Sundays and those Sundays have had various themes over the years. Traditionally advent was a very quiet thoughtful time a bit like Lent – a time of preparation and reflecting on reality in the troubled world we live in. So the 4 themes used to be what were known as ‘The Four Last Things’ – Heaven, Hell, Death & Judgement, things that many would admit we experience on earth especially in the difficult 2016 the world has experienced especially in Syria and Iraq, and we need a vision of Heaven if we’re not to be ground down by the trouble and sadness of this world. As Jesus taught us to pray ‘Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’.
And of course heaven features in lots of our Christmas carols. The second verse of ‘Once in Royal David’s city’ begins ‘He came down to earth from Heaven who is God and Lord of all. ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing’ – last verse begins ‘Hail Thou Heaven-born prince of peace’. And perhaps still one of the most favourite of Carols ‘Away in a manger’ ends ‘bless all the dear children in Your tender care and fit us for Heaven to live with You there.’
The 4 last things – Heaven, Hell, Death and Judgment sound very uncomfortable, but Heaven is the positive one. Heaven is something we can all hope for and the Christmas message is that God sent Jesus from heaven into this sad troubled world so that we too can have a sure hope of heaven one day.
So amidst all your Christmas festivities and celebrations I hope that it won’t just be a time to escape for passing fun and enjoyment, but that you too will catch a glimpse of heaven and the future hope that we can all receive and know because of the baby born in Bethlehem, our Saviour Jesus Christ.