REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY APPROACHES
Since the end of the First World War, British people have come together every November to remember their war dead. Each person young or old, rich or poor, wears a small red paper poppy whose genesis goes back to the trenches. In recent years, the numbers of people paying their respects have been increasing. The Two Minute Silence reintroduced in 1995 is widely observed. New memorials have been unveiled and there have never been as many school visits to Flanders. All this in spite of the great changes within the nature of our Society.
Perhaps the reason for that is because the Second World War especially, still shapes our country’s self-image; and the many conflicts since have left their mark on our national psyche. Today, British Servicemen and women continue in active service. Tragically, all too many are killed or have wounds which scar for life. They are each an important part of our history and can’t be forgotten. Not too long ago, children were bored with their parents’ war stories but, today, grandchildren are fascinated. Paralympians are hailed as heroes and inspiring tales of limbless former soldiers fighting to gain their self worth are not uncommon in our magazines and television programmes. Their resilience is a reminder of the debt we owe to those whose lives were sacrificed. They were young men and women who did not want to die. But they did. And so they deserve to be remembered and honoured.
COME & BEGIN ALL OVER AGAIN
Come the beginning of December, it’s Advent – and we begin all over again. Once more we look toward our celebration of the coming of God among us and within our lives. And as Christmas passes, we will continue, once more, the cycle of the Christian year.
For about six months we hear about ‘the Story’: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and the Day of Pentecost. Then we hear from Jesus following him through the long green season after Pentecost and we see who he is and what he does; and hear what he has to say. One more time.
Then, come next Advent – we do it all again.
We will hear the Bible read, every Sunday. We will hear from the stories of the Old Testament and listen to the letters of St Paul; and follow the writings of the Gospels – just like we did back in 2009 and 2006 and 2001 and 1998 and so on. Every Sunday, we will hear, and see, and live out the whole great Story of God’s love for his creation as we celebrate the holy sacrament of Communion and share the bread and wine together.
Over the centuries, the community of the Church has learned that the way this regular cycle of worship and action gives shape and content to our faith and its practise. It is our path into spiritual growth and maturity. Without it, we might be clever and we might, even, be good; but we will not be complete or anything close to who we are created to be. It’s that important.
The point is not really that these cycles of worship and story teach us important things – though, of course, they do. If that were the point, then after a few of them we would be pretty much taught all there is. No. The real point is that these cycles form us. They shape us as people and fashion us slowly, gradually, quietly toward the mind of Christ. They do this as nothing else can. There is no substitute. You just have to be there.
Advent starts again come the beginning of December.
You just have to be there.
It really does matter.
Best wishes – and Blessings this Advent & Christmastide.
Minister of Bothwell.