A personal reflection on Advent, where I find myself in Minsitry and Gabriel’s words, Do not be afraid’ – with thanks to Tim Lea’s video ‘No to Fear’.
The angel said to Mary, ‘Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God. Luke 1:30
I took up running earlier in the Autumn. In was loving getting out first thing in the morning and jogging along as dawn began to break. I managed to capture some of those moments in photo’s – but often they photo’s didn’t do justice to the moments – just as the cover photo above demonstrates! it is hard to capture the dawn on a phone camera because light is sparse, and the conditions of the day still uncertain.
Then I got a cold, and the weather turned colder, wetting, darker, and I gave up – but I keep telling myself I will try again in Spring when the conditions are better.
As I joruney through advent 2021, I am finding the conditions around me really challenging. The pandemic began 18 months after I began ministry here on the Sussex Coast and now 22 months later the pandemic is still with us. I think sometimes we forget how much of an upheaval the pandemic has been, turning every aspect of our lives upside down, and challenging every assumption of what normal means.
In ministry right now there are many pressures around us and among us. There are practical uncertainties. There are quesitons about what activity to resume, and how to do it. There are questions about whether the conditions around are right to do something new, or additional, or to resume something else.
And all that comes within a culture that recognises the decline of the church in the UK and a sense of urgency that we must seek growth, numerically and spiritually.
I’m finding this period the hardest of all the periods of the pandemic so far. This seemingly endless period of of tentative, anxious, uncertain emergence from lockdown and transition to work out how to ‘live with covid’ when we don’t know how to do that well yet is exhausting, and draining let alone factoring in the advent of Omicron and all the anxieties about the future of the church.
I’ve been feeling this for a while, but only more recently begun to make sense of it enough that I can begin to articulate it – largely because last week I actually did have the quarter days I had put in my diary – rather than let other expectations and demands crowd out the space.
Then at the end of last week God has encouraged me through a Fuelcast Video that reflected on Gabriel’s words: ‘Do not be afraid’. I encourage you to watch it if you can by clicking this link
‘Do not be afraid’ – the opposite of this is to fear. I’ve realised that all the conditions of ministry I’ve mentioned above have been feeding a sense of fear within me. In the video Tim suggests fear can kill faith & stifle holy creativity because our eyes become focused on the circumstances we find ourselves in, rather than on Jesus.
That has lead me to think again about Sabbath, divine and holy rest, offering space for contemplation, basking in God’s presence & opportunity for healing and wholeness. I’ve been pondering whether my focus should be more heavily on rest, on my being, on our wellness – rather than on activity and concerns about the future.
That seems ironic given we’re in December and I have a whole host of Christmas activities to plan for!
But as the video reminds us – God’ timing is perfect and will bring things forth at the right moment – if we are making space for God – and we do that through pausing, resting, Sabbath-ing.
Advent is a season of waiting that quite often the church pays some level of lip service to in it’s drive to make the most of the opportunties for mission and outreach. And as admirable as that may be, I wonder whether our desperate rush to get to Christmas means we skip Advent’s spiritual reminder that time is God’s. That just as God’s people both patiently and impatiently waited for Emmanuel, God’s moment came.
Perhaps we need to focus more heavily on rest, on recover, on being compassionate to ourselves, each other, to the church – to allow ourselves space to turn from fear to faithfulness, and trust that God’s moment will come.