This is my first Advent as an ordained minister. The run up to Christmas with a dog-collar on.
Whilst there are lots of additional services, with schools and in homes, and I certainly feel ‘Christmassy’ like never before, since I’m in the middle of things… still it is also the coldest season, and having taken several funerals now, I have several more burials of ashes and another funeral lined up.
It is the coldest time of year for homeless people too, and a particularly tough time for broken homes, with children and mothers fleeing violent homes; parents in prison whilst young children miss them; and couples splitting up driven to despair by the expectations that surround the season.
And I am seeing it all…
… This vocation truly is one of extremes, sharing with people as they experience all sorts of situations… joy and sorrow, weakness and bravery, death and new life, breaking down and re-creation. And I love it.
I love to be able to listen to someone’s story of perseverance and joy; I love to be allowed to offer encouragement and enthusiasm at someone’s hopeful plans…
… Last Sunday, the first of Advent, we had a choir of children from the local school, in at the main Eucharist -they sang a Christmas cantata, six songs telling the story from the annunciation to the visit of the wise-men and to Christmas today. And it was a great delight to then stand amongst the schoolchildren, our youngest choristers and church children and with my own small daughter, around the nave altar, as the priest led the Eucharistic prayer and the early winter sun streamed in through the church windows lighting the gathered children with pale gold like a host of small angels round the altar.
However at the daily Eucharist as our breath rises in the chill morning air despite the church’s heating, the list of sick whom we pray for grows ever longer. But this too is a privilege, to be given the concerns of someone else’s heart, to carry before God. And in our moments of joy we need not forget the suffering of others – at the Sunday Eucharist it was also our ‘Toy Service’, at which great numbers of gifts for young children were gathered, to be distributed through the local Women’s Refuge.
Joy and sorrow mingled, with heavenly and practical thanksgiving… it is good for us to be in this place.