As I sit here tonight wanting to write my pause for thought I remembered that actually I had forgotten to mention Advent and its meaning. I was first introduced to Advent at St Lukes Church in Endon, the village in which I was born, and the placewhere me and my father were saved. It was a traditional church and as such I was introduced to church liturgy.
St. Luke’s Church is a Grade II listed building dating from 1730. It sits high on a hill overlooking the valley in the Staffordshire Moorlands. It is a special church for me and my family as my sister and I were both married there, had children baptized, served on the council, or as vergers/servers. My father was a faith servant there for 28 yrs and is buried in the garden to the rear,with a view of the place he loved so very much. It is a genuine place of beauty and tranquility.
It has a number of magnificent stained glass windows, two of which have special cultural significance. Firstly, is the East window by the artist Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones was a ‘friend of William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1861, he became a founder member of Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company (later Morris and Company) for which he designed tapestries and stained glass.’ The second stained glass window was given as a memorial to the poet and philosopher T. E. Hulme. Born in Endon in 1883, Hulme was killed in action during the First World War in 1917.
You are probably wondering why I am telling you this and what it has to do with Advent. I share this only so that I can build a picture of my experience with this special time of the year.
The Advent wreath began in the time of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. On the 4th Sunday before Christmas a wreath would be placed in the church with 5 candles on it. Each Sunday a candle was lit as we remembered the coming of Christ, the first candle symbolizing hope, then love, joy, peace and message of salvation He bought to the world. Different churches I know do similar things not all using the exact format but the sentiment is the same. The last candle is the centre one and represents Christ. This candle was lit at midnight on Christmas Eve at our service.
The church, for this service, would be decorated, and each member of the congregation would have a candle. During the service there would be carols, a message, a reading, communion and the lighting of the candles. Then the lights would be turned off and the center candle, representing Christ, would be used to light the candle of a parishioner who in turn lit the next candle of the one sitting next to them, and they to the next and so on, until the entire church was lit only by candles. When all the candles were lit we would sing a carol without music. The windows would glow with their story. I know that the Holy Spirit filled the air on those occasions. The windows depicting the life of Christ, the candles, words, prayers, and praises, may well have been done for centuries but the essence of their meaning was still relevant, honest and true.
I have heard some criticize these traditions even ridicule them, but whatever your feelings towards them it is my experience that they bought me to my knees, repentant, and humble, they led me to salvation, poured into me, lifted me and sent me out. They taught me many things and provided a solid foundation.
Tonight my pause for thought took me back to the Advents I first experienced, which in turn reminded me of my salvation and the start of my life long journey. My prayer is that this Advent you too will consider from where you have come and give thanks for your own journey. God works in mysterious ways and uses all manner of people and places to reach His children. The story of Advent is as true today as ever. Jesus came to bring hope, show love, impart joy, offer salvation, and leave the Holy Spirit to empower you to do the same.
Luke 2 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Birth of Jesus Christ
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child.
Happy and Blessed 2nd Advent Sunday.