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Follow the Star Reflections for the Season of Advent

The season of Advent is a time of watching and waiting, both for the arrival (adventus) of Jesus as a child at Christmas and also for his coming in power and judgement at the close of the age. The mood is one of expectant longing for the arrival of Christ’s Kingdom, a kingdom of justice, mercy, peace and love; a kingdom presided over by God himself.

For each of the weeks of Advent, these reflections will invite you to spend some time watching and waiting, to see where the signs of Christ's 'adventus' can be found in your own life. They will follow the theme of the Church of England's Advent and Christmas campaign, so come with us, as we...

Follow the Star

Advent i ~ Double Vision

Stop. Breathe. God is here.

Listen to Jonathan Dove's setting of

Seek Him that Maketh the Seven Stars

Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion and turneth the shadow of death into the morning. Alleluia, yea, the darkness shineth as the day, the night is light about me. Amen.

Amos 5:8, Psalm 139

One of the early church fathers, Gregory of Nyssa, spoke of three ways of seeing: the diabolical, the angelic and the human.

The diabolical way of seeing is the way of the devil, who can only see the world from his own perspective, who can only see those things which serve his own interests, who can only see those things which serve his own ego.

The angelic way of seeing is, obviously, the way of the angels. They dwell in the near presence of God and so they see the whole creation as charged with God’s creative energy. They have the clarity of vision to see the true potential of all humanity and they go about the world, nudging us ever onwards to our divine destiny.

The human way of seeing is, of course, caught between the two. So often, we get stuck in the diabolical way of seeing: we manipulate the people around us to suit our own needs; we exploit the gifts of God’s good earth so that we can have our fill, and then some; we build metaphorical and literal walls to protect us from the world outside, and place ourselves at the centre.

And yet there are times when we have seen as the angels see: moments when we have had the vision and the courage to step outside of our own preoccupations to realise something of the God-given potential that is so evident all around us, if only we would look.

Part of the process of making our spiritual preparations for Christmas has to do with having a kind of double vision. Firstly, it is having the humility to see things as they really are; facing the hard truth about our own shortcomings; admitting to the times when we have seen everything as the devil sees.

Secondly, it is having the imagination to see the potential in all that is around us; mustering the courage to bring that potential into reality; realising that the world is literally pregnant with God; it is about asking for the clarity to see as the angels see.

Then, and only then, can we truly seek him that taketh the seven stars.

Questions to ponder:

1. When have I only seen the world in the diabolical way?

2. Where can I see, as the angels do, God's potential around me?

3. What can I do to be a herald of that potential to a waiting world?

Light of the world, open our eyes to the glory of your presence in our midst. Enable us to behold the world as you created it to be, as you created us to be. Empower us to move from darkness to light, from sin to new life. This we pray in the name of the Word made flesh, the light which is the light of all people, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Advent II ~ seeing in the dark

Stop. Breathe. God is here.

Listen to Eriks Esenvalds' setting of Sara Teasdale's poem 'Stars'

Alone in the night

On a dark hill

With pines around me

Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars

Over my head

White and topaz

And misty red;

Myriads with beating

Hearts of fire

The aeons

Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven

Like a great hill

I watch them marching

Stately and still.

And I know that I

Am honored to be

Witness

Of so much majesty.

Light pollution.

It's an interesting term.

As if light were somehow a bad thing.

Surely, light is good: it lights our path, helps us to see where we are going, allows us to see obstacles along the way.

That's certainly true.

But we can have too much light; too much of the wrong sort of light.

We've all struggled to open our eyes when we switch on the bathroom light in the morning, because we can't cope with the brightness. We've all been dazzled by the headlights of an oncoming car and been left with the green-blue dots that cloud our vision, once they've remembered to dip their full beam. Usually after some frantic headlight flashing on our part!

The 24-hour lifestyle of our big cities mean that, throughout the night hours, the streets and skies remain illuminated by wash of artificial light.

When you think about it, the term light pollution makes perfect sense.

Have you ever looked up on a moonless night in the countryside? It is only without the lights of the towns and cities, that we truly comprehend A heaven full of stars. Millions, billions of delicate pin-pricks of light, piercing the thick black cloak of night.

It is truly an honour to be witness of so much majesty.

But this majesty would be lost if it were not for the darkness.

The season of Advent falls at the darkest time of the year, when we spend more hours in darkness than we do in light. This is often something that we lament, especially once we are on the other side of Christmas and long for the lighter evenings, promised by the onset of spring.

But perhaps it is good to spend some time sitting in the darkness, away from the sights that dazzle and the tempting sounds we hear, as the great hymn puts it. In the darkness, away from the glare of a world that is ever near, we can see the light that is delicate, that light that is distant.

When Christ arrived at the first Christmas, he did not come among us in a blaze of light, heralded by fanfare and procession. Instead, he chose to appear quietly, in the dark, signaled by a single star, spotted on the horizon by those who could see in the dark; those who were watching and waiting, aware from the glare of the world.

And if we don't learn to see in the dark, we will miss him.

Questions to ponder:

1. What are the things which dazzle you?

2. Are you afraid of the darkness? Why might that be?

3. How can you spend time away from the 'light pollution' so that you can spot Christ's gentle light?

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity: in the habitations of thy majesty and glory, world without end. Amen.
Created By
The Reverend Craig John Huxley
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Credits:

Created with images by Greg Rakozy - "untitled image" • PublicDomainPictures - "orion orion' belt stars" • Benjamin Davies - "Lost in a sky full of stars" • Eugene Triguba - "Man in front of headlight" • OSCAR AGUILAR - "Rainy Night New York City" • NASA - "untitled image" • Aperture Vintage - "white stars"

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