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Advent Sunday 2021
28 November 2021
Today’s Readings: Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28,34-36.
Let us pray.

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
so that, on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

Amen.

A Reflection from Carola Darwin


In our regular Sunday liturgy, we say together ‘Christ was born, Christ is risen, Christ will come again’. Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the season of preparation for the coming of Christ (Advent means coming). Traditionally, at Advent we try to prepare not just for Christ’s coming as a vulnerable baby, but also for his second coming, when we ‘will see the Son of Man, coming in a cloud with power and great glory,’ as we heard in today’s gospel.
 
Why should we think about the End times, the Second Coming of Christ, at all? Haven’t we got enough to worry about with bills to pay and emails to answer, not to mention Christmas presents to buy and Christmas food to make! And anyway, isn’t it a bit gloomy, to be worrying about the End of the World? Today, I want to suggest that on the contrary, thinking about the End Times can be a source of hope and joy, underpinning our lives with an excitement and gratitude that will last much longer than the Christmas socks, let alone the Christmas pudding.
 
It's a common complaint among Christians, and perhaps particular Christians preaching, that the commercial and social hoo-ha of Christmas drowns out Advent which should be a time of penitence and reflection. And of course this is true. But perhaps it’s just as important to use Advent as an opportunity to think about Christ’s Second Coming.
 
Let’s start with some scientific facts. One day, we are all going to die. In a few billion years, the earth will be swallowed up by the sun. Still further into the future, the Universe itself will end – possibly in a big Crunch, but more probably by dissipating into an ever colder and more tenuous nothingness. The apparent futility of this all is frightening, and leaves us with a conundrum. Why on earth would God bother to create something which is doomed to end so miserably? Jesus’s answer is that whatever happens to the material Universe, God will never stop caring about us. Responding to the sceptical Sadducees, who rejected the idea of any kind of life after death, he reminded them that God has said ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,’ and he added, God is not the God of the dead but of the living. Because God cared about the patriarchs then, God cares about them now. And because God cares about you and me then God will care about us forever.
 
How then, given our security in God’s faithful love, should we look at the descriptions of the End Times, which are so full of threat and foreboding? It’s worth remembering at this point that at the time of Christ’s birth, many Jewish people were waiting with hope and excitement for the coming of a Messiah. Some of the images and prophecies in their scriptures (which we call the Old Testament) led them to believe that the Messiah would come to trample down the enemies of Israel like a second David. It was a comforting and and hopeful expectation, no doubt, when faced by the power and brutality of the Roman Empire. But when Jesus did come, he wasn’t the kind of Messiah they were expecting at all. Instead he was a wandering preacher who suffered an ignominious death by crucifixion. It’s hardly surprising that he wasn’t immediately recognised. If Christ’s first coming took such an unexpected form, we should be aware that his second coming may be just as surprising – that our ideas of what the prophecies mean may need radical reinterpretation in the same way.
 
Nonetheless, these prophecies can be confusing. For example, how do we deal with statements like ‘Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place.” It’s easy to see this in terms of the ragged preacher holding up a placard saying ‘The end is nigh’ while people rush past, happily conscious that such prophecies have always – or at least so far – failed to come true. But there is more to it than this.
 
Earlier in the same chapter, St Luke writes of the disastrous siege and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, when the temple was destroyed and the population murdered en masse. This disaster was in the future for Jesus, but in the recent and painful past for Luke, writing towards the end of the first century. This seems likely, therefore, to be these events that Jesus told his disciples to watch for ‘praying that you may have the strength to escape them. Other parts of the prophecy, though, seem to refer to a much more world-wide and cataclysmic end, with signs in sun, moon, and stars and the Son of man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.’ This is surely something much more final and glorious, and it would not make sense to pray to escape from it.
 
Why does the Gospel mix these events together?  G.B. Caird, in his gospel commentary, points out that in the Hebrew Scriptures “over and over again we read that the Day of the Lord is at hand, not because the prophets lived under the incurable and morbid delusion that the end of the world was just around the corner, but because they saw in the historic crisis with which they were immediately concerned the point at which the circle of eternity touched the line of time, the moment when Israel was concerned with the ultimate issues of life and death.” In the same way, he suggests, Jesus saw the destruction of Jerusalem as a foreshadowing of the End times, inextricably linked in its meaning to his Second Coming, though separated in time.
 
I said that Advent was a hopeful time, but if the Second Coming was simply about cosmic destruction then it would not bring us hope. The most helpful way to see these images of destruction, it seems to me, are that they describe a purging, an opportunity to rid ourselves of our worst aspects. There is so much wrong with the world, so many ways that human beings mar the image of God in creation. If, as has been said, the line between good and evil runs down the middle of the human heart, then we all have aspects of ourselves that we would be better off without. And if we experience fire, or ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ after death, then maybe it will be because we realise so clearly, as Julian of Norwich says ‘how black and horrible our sins are’.
 
John Polkinghorne, the physicist who became an Anglican priest, suggests that God’ judgement of our sins is not so much the blazing wrath of an angry judge, but rather ‘a moral seriousness God’s creation in which deeds have their consequences. […] The wrath of God is real (he goes on) but so is God’s steadfast and unchanging love.
 
This is what St Paul means, I believe, when he says:
 
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 1:38-39)
 

Organ Voluntary

Wagner – Overture to Tannhauser, played by Nathan Laube:
 
Watch here

Today’s hymn


O come, O come, Emmanuel:
 
Watch here

Music from Matthew


As the liturgical year begins anew, during Advent we share the verses of the Advent Prose between the four Sundays, bookending mass with the plainchant Rorate coeli de super (Drop down, ye heavens, from above). At the offertory each week will be sung two of the great ‘O’ antiphons, so called because each begins with the vocative exclamation (O SapientiaO Adonai, etc). They always seem to remind me of the ‘O Mouse’ passage from Alice in Wonderland, but try not to think about that. They are actually the Magnificat Antiphons which would be sung either side of that canticle at Vespers (or Choral Evensong) from 17 to 24 December. As we don’t have those opportunities and as this ancient and beautiful music leads us so surely to the Incarnation, we borrow them to include at mass on Sundays. Here are the first two:
 
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
 
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
 
At communion today Ruthy will sing a solo setting of the middle English text Adam lay ybounden by English composer Peter Warlock, who died tragically aged 36. His music combines expressive simplicity with complex harmonic language. Here is a choral version:
 
‘Adam lay ybounden’ music by Peter Warlock (1894-1930)
 
Adam lay ybounden, Bounden in a bond; Four thousand winter Thought he not too long. And all was for an apple, An apple that he took. As clerkës finden written In their book. Ne had the apple taken been, The apple taken been, Ne had never Our Lady, A-been heaven’s queen. Blessed be the time
That apple taken was! Therefore we moun singen Deo gratias!
 
Tenebrae, Nigel Short (director)
https://youtu.be/TQNGddwlYv0
 
For more choral music especially for Advent, come to our candlelit service this evening at 6.00pm (please be seated by 5.50pm).
 

Carola gives a supplement to today’s homily from Meister Eckhart
 



Giver and Gift
 
All that I have and all I ever
will is on temporary loan
 
given for a season like the leaves
of spring that soon enough will
 
rustle in the late autumn winds,
for You give with a single intent:
 
that I might know that You are
Giver and Gift, the one beyond
 
any how, and every why, one
I didn’t earn and can never lose,
 
and one that will never lose me.
 

Meister Eckhart, translated by Jon Sweeney and Mark Burrows
(from Book of the Heart)


- - - - - - - -

Artisan Fair


Once again, many thanks and congratulations to all who helped with and contributed to the Artisan Fair last week, especially to Marion Rushbrook.  It raised around £1,500.00 and had around 200 people through the doors.  An excellent result for a first attempt… it will be back next year!

Advent Book and Study Group

This year’s Advent Book will be ‘Music of Eternity – Meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill.’
Please speak to Barbara Ross if you would like her to get you a copy.
Barbara will lead a discussion group, with soup, following the Wednesday Mass on the 1st, 8th and 15th December.  All Welcome.
 

Advent Study Morning


Barbara will lead a study morning on Saturday 11th December, 10.30am – 12 noon, at St. Anne’s, looking at the themes and ideas in Luke’s Gospel to help you understand it better as we hear it read through the coming year.

Highgate International Chamber Music Festival


We are delighted to see the return of the Highgate International Chamber Music Festival to St. Anne’s.  The Festival began here so it’s a pleasure to see its ‘post-pandemic’ renaissance begin here!

Check out their website for concert details and booking:
https://www.chambermusicfestival.co.uk/
 

New Bishop of Willesden

The Revd. Lusa Nysenga-Ngoy has been announced as the new Bishop of Willesden:
https://www.london.anglican.org/articles/new-bishop-of-willesden-announced/

The Wisdom of Pope Francis – ‘On being a bishop’
 

Watch here

The Season of Advent


The Season of Advent is upon us and always, to my mind, the most beautiful and comforting season in the Church calendar as we reflect on the end times, on Christ’s Second Coming, on our eternal home in Heaven and on our redemption in Him as well as on our preparations to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation at Christmas and that great expression of God’s love for us and for all of humanity.

I was struck, as I listened to Barbara’s homily last Sunday on the Feast of Christ the King how different our lives and outlooks might be if our focus were on the risen Christ reigning in heaven and our place there rather than, as the lectionary and Gospels inevitably point us, on His earthly life, ministry and example.

Advent is, of course, a penitential season, like Lent; a season of prayer, fasting and self-denial; a season of ‘less’ before the ‘more’ of Christmas and it is always a struggle for us to keep Christmas at bay and to keep this very special and short few weeks properly.
‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ is often asked, but rarely heard is ‘What are you giving up for Advent?’  There is no ‘Mardi Gras’ (Fat Tuesday) or Carnivale (goodbye to meat) before Advent but, perhaps, there should be!

So, as we enter into the season, our minds might turn towards, inter alia, fish and vegetarian dishes.  I am lucky enough to have a be-cassocked fishmonger who makes regular deliveries to the vestry on a Sunday, mostly whole fish which I generally prefer to bake in the oven.  So here is my ‘go to’ simple recipe for baked fish and vegetables:

Oven-baked fish and vegetables

(Image is not the recipe below but something similar)
This is, basically, very simple but can be varied in its flavours with whatever works for you.  I think that I first had something like this in Spain many years ago, but you can find similar in most Mediterranean countries.

Set your oven to 180c (170c fan).

Slice as many waxy potatoes, carrots and leeks (and a fennel bulb, if you have one) as you think you need and lay in an oven dish. Season and cover with fish stock (use a cube or a ‘gel-pot’ but make sure that it is well dissolved before adding).  Bake for around 30/40 mins or until the potatoes and carrots are just beginning to give a little. 

Clean, and season your whole fish. If it’s whole, cut three of four slashes into each side, and place on top of the vegetables, drizzle with olive oil, and return to the oven for about 20 mins, until the fish is cooked through. (If you use fillets, they may only need 10-15 mins).

Flavourings and Variations:
You can vary this dish in so many ways depending on your taste and what you have available.

For a more Greek flavour, add black olives, sliced tomatoes and some thyme or oregano to the vegetables, and finish with the juice of a lemon.

For a more Spanish take, add a pinch or Saffron and a tablespoon of tomato paste to the stock.  You could also use a teaspoon of Smoked Paprika instead of the Saffron (don’t use both).

For more North African flavours, add ground cumin, coriander and chilli…and also dust the fish with these.

Equally, you can add any chopped herbs near the end or, to ‘bulk up’ the vegetables, add frozen peas or other frozen vegetables in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. 

The options are endless... play and enjoy!
 

For your prayers


Please pray for the repose of the soul of Peggy Jay who died recently.
Also, for Julie Marsh-Cann who has an operation on Tuesday.
 

In next Week’s Mailing


Fr. Simon on Dante, the Divine Comedy and Advent.  Look out for it!

Quote of the Week


Attributed to the son of the actor, Matthew Macfadyen:
‘Twitter is for angry old people; Facebook is for old people; and Instagram is for people who want to feel good about themselves and end up feeling worse!’
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