Advent can be hard
Advent can be hard; I know, that's no surprise, but please bare with me.
For me as a wife and mum it's hard work writing all the Christmas cards; choosing, buying and wrapping presents (especially for the men in my life); decorating the house; arranging letters to and from Santa; organising food for the festive period; tidying the place ready for visitors; arranging costumes for and attending school and church plays; and keeping a smile through it all. Please don't think I'm complaining, I'm not (much), I love advent and Christmas, but it is exhausting. It can be hard.
For me in lay ministry there are the advent services, nativity play, christingle, carol services, school assemblies and various socials. These are all fantastic events which reach outwards from church into the community and are a blessing to be involved with. But let's not pretend it doesn't take a whole load of organisation, commitment and energy. It can be hard.
But this post is not about me, it's about all those people who find the advent season and Christmas in general so hard to deal with. It can be lonely if you are bereaved, estranged or without family. It can be dark when Christmas brings back sore memories. It can be heartbreaking when you or people you love are ill or depressed. It can be frustrating when economic reasons seem to limit your ability to really experience Christmas. It can be a hollow time when you are longing for love in your life. It can be terrifying when the need to be joyful seems beyond you. It can be oh so hard.
So what can we do for those who are struggling and will find the rest of Christmas advent hard. Personally I reach out; opening my arms, my heart and home as wide as possible. I will pray for those I know will struggle and use the phone to keep in touch. I will spread the good news of Christmas services and events as wide as possible. And I will keep on reminding us all that advent and Christmas may for most of us mean joy, but that's not the same for everyone and those people need our love, compassion and time.
I led the intercessions on Sunday and focussed on these issues, here are the prayers I prayed.
Eternal God, we come to you during this season of hope.
May the power of Jesus be born in us again.
Rekindle that power in those who have grown weary.
Restore hope to those whose present or past lives have become a burden.
Renew within us the vision and excitement of lives which are motivated,
Show us our own personal sense of mission
Be with those who are imprisoned in a past which cripples them or makes new possibilities seem impossible.
Provide a way of reframing their past so that it no longer imprisons, so that it can be seen as something which hekps them better understand the human experience and relate to the sufferings of others.
You come, gentle Jesus, to a world of broken people.
Come again to us and transform us as you did those who experienced your touch and your grace.
May some new truth excite us,
may the possibility of some new loving behaviour look achievable,
and may some new vision claim us.
We pray for those who need your special touch:
those who are ill;
For all those affected by HIV Aids
those for whom the season causes sadness or depression;
those who are lonely;
those who are departed and those who mourn the death of any whom they have loved
those whose lives are forever compromised by frailty of the body and who will never be fully active again.
We pray also for our world:
in constant strife,
filled with passions and rage and uncertainty.
Those affected by the forest fires in Israel
For the continuing tension between north and south Korea
Hold this world in your compassionate embrace.
Enable us as a global people to care for one another and to see those who are different from us less as threats and enemies and more as your loving children.
May a new world be born.
Lord in your mercy
Hear our prayer