Madonna and Child, Bernini, 1640s, Web Gallery of Art
......and he shall be called the prince of peace.
I speak to you in the name of the one Holy and undivided Trinity, Father +Son and Holy Spirit.
To many, Advent is no more than a period in which we do our Christmas,shopping, attend the many parties and celebrate the holiday which is all but,over by the time Christmas day itself has arrived.
For those who practise their Christian faith with some greater dedication to the spiritual preparation, Advent has been a valuable time to look at how we lead our lives and how the Nativity is the fulfilment of a promise made to us so long ago.
To some it might seem innocuous that late on during the Advent period the Holy Catholic Church celebrates what is called the Immaculate Conception, a feast which for some Anglicans and many Protestants feel has no place in the church's life let alone in Advent. In this we are reminded that the holy mother of God was born without stain of sin. At first glance it may appear that their is no Biblical authority for this. However, Christmas is about the fulfilment of a promise by God to his people that he would send his Son (or more accurately if we try to understand the nature of the Holy Trinity) come himself to guide mankind and show the wayto eternal salvation of our souls.
Did God wake up one morning and say, "I think I'll send my Son to Earth in about nine months time, let's find a suitable mother?" That seems both silly and rather unlike the ways of the Eternal God who transcends all time and exists in infinity.
If we look back into the prophecies and particularly those of Isaiah we find most clearly that God made this promises very early on and repeatedly where the concept of God with Us (Immanuel) was always present. The Messiah, the anointed king of all the world was so clearly given to us in God's promise, his covenant with mankind.
As Christians we acknowledge that God has always been and always will be -- the creator living in Infinity which has no beginning and no end, a picture painted again in the new Testament when describing God as the Alpha and Omega.
It may be easier however to see God in the pictorial sense of a circle which has neither start or finish. In this way we can accept that living in an infinite existence allows God to know the past and the future in a way no human person can. As a consequence of this God must know but not necessarily direct what will happen in all life. So when Mary the mother of Jesus was born her future would be known already to God and the nature of her birth would indeed be such that her conception would herald the very start of what we now celebrate as Christmas - the two seem to be inexorably connected.
Amongst all the decorations and Christmas commercialism there remains the single and most poignant truth, that God fulfilled his promise and sent to us through a human mother himself as a man. Jesus is the example of the peace-bringer and yet the world in so many places rejects what he taught us that by a Christian life we are led to peace.
In these troubled times may we constantly look on Jesus and his teaching and find the way to peace between individual and nations.
May God bless you and your dear ones this Holy Christmas.
Dom Jonathan Webster, Order of Port Royal