Christians are encouraged during the season of Advent in particular to read ‘the signs of the times’. As we hear again the words of the prophets concerning the coming Messiah our principal focus is on the impending Kingdom of God. The chosen one of God comes in the flesh to inaugurate the Kingdom and will come again to bring it to completeness at the end of the era.
One of the characters who has a critical involvement in this process is St. John the Baptist who, in his ministry, acts as the harbinger of the Lord. That ministry continues through the Church’s corporate memory of him and reverence for him. Whenever there is a time of uncertainty and change, the example of the Baptist points us towards Jesus, just as much now as he did in the midst of the crisis of the early years of the first century. The crisis in those days (as in every age) was multi-faceted. The Holy Land was under the control of a powerful and brutal regime. The people groaned under the yolk of heavy taxation facilitated for the emperor by the puppet-king Herod and his family. At the same time, emperors were claiming divinity as their own, showing the extent of evil at work in their life and rule. At the same time there was an expectation that God would act, that a saviour would arise out of Israel. Many reflected on the words of the prophet Balaam,
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel… (Numbers 24: 17)
A biblically based theological reflection might consider the nature of any particular crisis and see in it the marks of chaos defined as opposition to God and a deliberate and determined undoing of his works of creation and salvation. In any age this is monstrous and receives its characterisation in the mythological sea-monster Rahab who is defeated by God at the beginning of creation. One of the translations of the Hebrew for ‘Rahab’ into the Greek means ‘overweening’ which perfectly describes the tendency of mankind to elevate itself and endeavour to replace God.
The New Testament writers see this tendency and describe it in apocalyptic terms. At any point in history the forces of chaos can show themselves, expressed in the arrogance of humanity. The Book of Revelation speaks for the most part in general terms about the battle between good and evil, but in the epistle of Jude the author describes the immediate crisis faced either by the whole Church or specifically by his readers (whoever he was writing to). He writes in denunciatory tones,
These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 16-19)
You may recognise some of these thoughts if you choose to reflect during Advent or at any other time on the nature of our present society, the state of the Church and the challenges posed by both to maintain Christian faith and morality as handed down from the Apostles. To maintain the faith will require no small amount of effort. Jude knew this and so follows his denunciation with encouraging words,
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
When you reflect on the elements of chaos which are evident in society, church and world (and I write this because a number of you have told me you are already doing this), take as your companion St. John the Baptist. He came at the right time to say all that was needful whilst retaining a proper perspective of his work and a true understanding of his own person. He knew he was not ‘the One’, but he knew who was. For the Baptist and for all of us it is only Jesus who matters. In him alone is the new creation wrought and the powers of chaos destroyed.
Sunday 27th November, Advent 1
Wednesday 30th November, 10.00am Mass (St. Andrew, Apostle)
Friday 2nd December, 7.00pm Mass
Saturday 3rd December Christmas Feast
Sunday 4th December, Advent 2
Wednesday 7th December, 10.00am Mass (St. Ambrose, bishop and doctor)
11.30am Funeral of the late Derek Turner in church.
Friday 9th December, 7.00pm Mass
Saturday 10th December, 10.00am Mass (Ember Day)
11.00am Forward in Faith (St. Albans) AGM in church
Sunday 11th December, Advent 3
In addition to services at 8am and 9.30am: Family Service at 11.15am
Sunday 11th December, 11.15am
Monday 12th December, 11.30am Funeral of the late Ian Read in church.
Wednesday 14th December, 10.00am Mass
Friday 16th December, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 18th December, Advent 4
In addition: Carol Service at Kestrel Grove, 3.00pm. All welcome.
Wednesday 21st December, 10.00am Mass (St. Thomas, Apostle)
Friday 23rd December, 7.00pm Mass
Christmas Services 2022
6.30pm Carol Service
8.00am Low Mass (Book of Common Prayer)
9.30am Family Mass with carols (Modern rite)
Monday 26th December, 9.30am Mass (St. Stephen, First Martyr)
Tuesday 27th December, 9.30am Mass (St. John the Evangelist)
Wednesday 28th December, 10.00am Mass (Holy Innocents)
Friday 30th December, 7.00pm Mass
Sunday 1st January, The Circumcision of Christ
… no midweek services
Sunday 8th January, The Epiphany of Our Lord