Chaplain's thought for the week
Revd Tom considers the beginning of Advent
There’s a story told that about a hundred years ago The Times newspaper wrote to a number of famous authors of the day, asking them to comment on the question, ‘What is wrong with the world today?’ These days, I’m sure we would find plenty of things about which to write: climate change, the uncertainty over Brexit, the terrorist threat, lack of provision for mental health issues. In response to this question, however, one author, G. K. Chesterton, simply wrote: ‘Dear Sir, I am, Yours, G. K. Chesterton.’
Last Sunday we welcome in the beginning of Advent, so we’re now well and truly on a countdown to Christmas. For many people Advent is a time of exciting anticipation and waiting. But it’s also a time of frantic busy-ness when there is so much to do to get ready for Christmas: the cards, the shopping, the social events… and all the preparations can easily get in the way of what Advent is really all about.
For Christians, Advent is a time for a conscious longing for a better world – for a time when there is justice, an end to poverty and peace throughout the globe. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas – the festival of the birth of the prince of peace – we light candles in our churches, one for each Sunday, which helps us to look ahead with hope to Christmas.
So alongside all the excitement about the coming of Christmas we might feel – and alongside all the preparations we’re making for it – I want to encourage our community to join Christians in longing for a better world. The very best place to begin to change the world is to look within, as G. K. Chesterton did; he recognised that change in the world needs to begin with the very person I am most able to change: myself.
As each of us looks inside and recognises that we’re not perfect, we become more able to see the external problems in the world around us as a mirror of the problems in each human soul. So if we want the world to change, we have to start with ourselves. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ said Gandhi.
This term in Chapel I’ve been talking about the fruits of the Spirit, which we find in the Bible: they are nine virtues, good qualities we might display in our lives: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’. So this Advent, why not take one of those qualities and try to make it more part of your life? Make a commitment to grow in patience, or generosity, or joy. Perhaps even commit to making one small step to change in the smallest of ways.
In the coming weeks as we prepare all of the externals for Christmas, why not also look within and ask God to help us prepare internally? As we put up and decorate our Christmas trees, we might ask that God would lighten any darkness within with love; as we write messages of good will in our cards, we might ask that we would genuinely have feelings of kindness and generosity to others; as we sing along to jovial Christmas songs and carols, we might ask that our hearts would be full of joy.