This Advent we were invited into St. Luke’s Gospel which will be our guiding Gospel for Sunday reading throughout the next year. It would have been too simple to start reading at Chapter 1, so instead we were taken to the heady melodrama of Chapter 21, where Jesus warns about the horrors coming upon the world in the end times. Jolly stuff for Christmas preparation and certainly not to be read before the 9 o’clock watershed! The early Christians believed that Jesus would return imminently and so they wrote with urgency and passion to keep people alert, and on their guard for Jesus was coming very soon.  Luke’s warning is translated in one version (New Revised Standard Version)

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life”

I sit here rather smugly, thinking that I’m not sure I have ever dissipated, whatever that is, and it is many a year since I have been drunk as a skunk. The message, however translates it:

“But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping”

Now I am squirming along with most of us. This Advent season, is supposedly our preparation for the coming of Jesus (the first time let alone his coming again!). When in fact we are absorbed, even driven to preparing for a totally materialistic Christmas of partying, over-indulging and present-giving with all the shopping that goes with it! I am not advocating, as some of our forebears did, banning the whole lot. Prohibition never works. By the time Luke wrote, they knew Jesus was not likely to return so soon, so he urges his readers to carry on being Good News for the world as Jesus is, and as he wants us to be. So, let us spend some time just being with God, recognising the beauty of God with us, listening to God speak to us, seeing God in those around us, and offering ourselves to be with those who lives need restoring from brokenness, sickness, rejection and guilt. Whatever happens, says Jesus,

“Stand tall, with your heads held high. Help is on its way………….”

As we receive Jesus into our lives, we then become this Christmas Hope for others, that they too may receive him. May we all know a God-blessed Christmas and New Year.

Rev Kevin Watson, Synod Moderator