Sundays before Advent (Sundays of November)
The four Sundays that bring the church’s year to a close have a common theme: the Kingdom.
The first Sunday of this little season falls close to All Saints' Day when we commemorate the communion of saints: those who, in life exhibited Christ-likeness in different ways and who are members of his glorified body, the kingdom of heaven.
The second Sunday, the third before Advent, is kept as Remembrance Sunday. The kingdoms of the earth and their brokenness are remembered. It is a day when we give thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and we who live give thanks for what they did and pray for peace.
The Third Sunday, the second before Advent, is about the life of the Church, whose members are by the living out of their baptism, already members of the kingdom.
Finally, the Sunday before Advent has, in recent years, been kept as the Feast of Christ the King, following Roman Catholic practice. It is intended to focus our attention on the eternal kingship of Christ.
Advent (the four weeks before Christmas)
The word means ‘coming’. It is a time of preparation for Christmas, but it is much more than the spiritual version of present buying. Different themes have been proposed at different times.
One is the preparation for the second coming of Christ at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. The four weekly themes are Death, Heaven, Hell and Judgement. We who live had better prepare ourselves for the day of the Lord when our life will be judged.· This makes the season an awesome one, the counterpart of Lent but in some ways more personal. It is sometimes known as little Lent. It is still kept by some Christians as a time of fasting, something which is a little· difficult now that the celebration of Christmas begins long before the feast itself.
One way in which one can make a spiritual preparation is by making one’s confession. (During the Interregnum Fr Roger is happy both to hear confessions and to assist those who want to make their confession for the first time.)
The themes proposed by the readings for the season are slightly different and play upon the multiple meanings of the word coming.
This year we follow St Mark’s gospel and begin with his foretelling of the coming of the Son of Man on clouds with power and glory, a quotation from the Book of Daniel.
The second week takes us back to the beginning of the gospel, with the proclamation of the coming of Christ in his ministry by John the Baptist, who even as he baptised the penitent spoke of a baptism in the power of the Spirit which Christ would bring.
The third week stays with John the Baptist, this time from St. John’s gospel, and points to the Messiahship of Jesus proclaimed by John. He is, in other words, the one long expected.
The Sunday before Christmas, the fourth Sunday of Advent now focuses on promise of the birth of Christ: the announcement (annunciation) to Mary by the angel that she is to bear a son who is to be called Jesus.