Celebrating the fourth Sunday of Advent
This past weekend, we had a beautiful Advent Service at home and enjoyed a great afternoon with our friends Kerry and Zuri.
The 21st of December is often the shortest day (and longest night) of the year in the Northern hemisphere, but here on the equator the twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of night are pretty consistent throughout the year.
Even though we do not have the long nights, so often associated with Canadian Advent, the beauty and significance of candles continue to be an important part of our Advent and Christmas traditions. Candles remind us of God’s presence which banishes darkness and calls us to hope.
On Sunday, we reflected on the story of the disciple Thomas. It is incredible the number of old traditions that use to be celebrated by Christians on December 21st, prior to 1969 this was the Feast Day of Saint Thomas (Now celebrated by Orthodox and Catholic Christians on July 3rd).
Baking wheat for the poor; ringing bells and cracking whips to scare off demons and evil spirits; and, our favourite old tradition, unmarried women jumping over a stool into their beds, throwing their shoes at their bedroom door, and sleeping with their head at the foot of their beds on the longest night of the year (supposedly this would ensure them a dream of their future husband).
Needless to say, we haven’t revised any such medieval or victorian traditions, but it is fun to think about what traditions have faded away and which ones we hold on to and pass on to our children.
Singing and praying around our advent wreath, we talked about Thomas, his doubts and his great loyalty to Jesus. We especially looked at Thomas’ conversation with Jesus at the Last Supper as he became confused and anxious over Jesus telling the disciples that he was going ahead of them to prepare a place for them (in heaven). Thomas blurts out, "how can we follow you if we don’t know the way?!"
Jesus’ assurance and resurrection appearances are the answer to Thomas fears and doubts. As Jesus says to him: “Because you have seen, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
This is the message that is at the centre of the Christmas story, and of our faith. God has come near and provided a way for all of us to live in the new reality of God’s transforming presence. In the light of Jesus we are able to live a life bigger than ourselves. A life of faith, hope and love. A reality that overcomes and transforms the darkness and brokenness of this world -- Jesus is the way!
Wishing you all a joy-filled Christmas!