During November we laid one of the fathers of modern Methodism, Reverend Joseph Rice Hale to rest. He served as General Secretary of the World Methodist Council for twenty-five years. A number of tributes have been shared with our office, giving witness to his impact on many lives. We also witnessed the vitriolic rhetoric of the United States of America’s electoral process, savored the splendor of a “super moon” (which according to NASA will not be so close to earth again until 25 November 2034) and moved into the Advent Season.
Advent marks the beginning of the church year, the first season of the Christian calendar and the preparation for the coming of Christ on Christmas Day. We use the colors purple, blue and white during our liturgical celebrations. The colors resemble dignity and are associated with royalty. It is the recognition of Christ as the coming of the King of kings. Advent is four Sundays before Christmas. The meaning of the coming of Christ is twofold. First, it celebrates the incarnation. God in Jesus of Nazareth broke into human history and dwelt amongst us. Secondly, through acts of mercy and grace we prepare for God’s final coming as judge.
While Israel sang songs in expectation of Christ’s first coming, we now sing songs in commemoration and celebration of that first coming and in anticipation of the second coming. As we participate in the Advent liturgy, we make present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, we renew our ardent desire for his second coming. Through celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, we unite ourselves to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ (Justin Holcomb). According to Karl Barth; “Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.” The promise for Israel and the promise for the church is Jesus Christ; he has come, and he will come again. This is the essence of Advent”.
In a bruised and broken world wrecked by hate and violence, Methodists need to fulfill our calling to transform the world. The Christ who we worship and for whom we are waiting is a friend of the needy and oppressed. We cannot invite Jesus into our hearts and homes without inviting his friends.