By Fr BOB BATES
… And so the calendar moves us around to Advent once more, a time of watching and waiting, a time when many people this year will worry about how to get through Christmas in the current financial climate.
For many the main concerns in life at the moment are feeding the family, holding onto the job, paying the mortgage and generally living from day to day – so how will Christmas be managed, how to pay for presents and all the trimmings? We’ll have to cut back this year!
Such folk as this are in our prayers each day as we hear of new cases of financial problems and struggles, but the greatest gift of all is free and it is that for which we wait and watch – the coming of the Lord Jesus, both as a child in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, but also when he comes again, this time as “Lord of All” as he has promised he will.
Some over-dedicated groups have tried to estimate when this triumphant return will happen, and as we know they have been proved wrong – we are still here and watching and waiting aren’t we?
Others may have assumed that this event will never happen, and to others it is a foolish and fanciful dream – but we believe that our Lord is not one to make idle promises.
He has however suggested that not even he or the angels know when his return will take place, only God the Father knows – so we must be more ready to watch and wait than to try to calculate dates.
This time of watching and waiting for the coming of Jesus, we call by its Latin name – Advent, and it covers the 24 days before Christmas, which is of course why your Advent calendar has 24 doors or windows.
Naturally, a piece of chocolate behind each window is encouragement to open each window, but there is a much deeper incentive to move through the season, as each day brings us nearer to Christmas, and the day we celebrate the coming to earth of the God who made the earth in the form of a small and helpless child.
In our church in early December, we sing our special (and glorious) Advent carols, we light our candles on our Advent wreath, a new one each week, adding to those already lit, and so each week we have more light until on Christmas day we light to candle for Jesus – the light of the world.
Here at St Vincent’s we have our study time, as we try to learn a bit more about our faith so as to be more alert to God and his promises, and we have a special Evening Service of Advent Carols and Readings, on December 11 at Nossa Senhora do Carmo in Tavira (in the grounds of the Vila Galé Albacora Hotel) at 6pm – followed by seasonal refreshments.
The hotel has decided to close for the winter, but we will be there, and the hotel reception will be open to greet you should you wish to come – you will be made most welcome.
Then across the Algarve we will celebrate with our Christmas carols. We are again grateful to the folk at the church in Boliqueime for their hospitality where we have our joint Carol and Readings service with them on December 20 at 7pm, with singing from their choir and readings in Portuguese and English. And then of course special services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so look out for our advertisements in a couple of week’s time.
I should of course say that we celebrate Immanuel, God with us, each week, whatever the season, and you are most welcome to join us at one of our services at any time.
We wish you God’s blessing this Advent and Christmas, and hope that we might see you and meet with you sometime soon.
Revd Bob Bates is Chaplain of the St Vincent’s Chaplaincy in the Algarve. Visit www.stvincentsalgarve.org for service details.