Archbishop Encourages Us to Serve Others this Christmas
Posted on December 16th, 2012 at 2:15PM
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The Archbishop's sermon in The Sun today is about preparing for Christmas; taking time to serve others and engaging to make a difference.
Today we lit our third candle in the Advent wreath. One more to go before we light the Christmas candle.
How are your preparations going? Have you sent off your cards, bought any presents, ordered the food? Or are you someone who is so busy that you prefer to leave it to the last minute and hope for the best?
Last week I wrote about John the Baptist who was called to go out to prepare all the people for the coming of the promised saviour. All the rough places had to be made smooth, and the crooked things had to be made straight – and that’s talking about changing people’s characters, not just the landscape! But the people wanted to know “What does he mean? How can we straighten ourselves out? How are we expected to shape up for the coming of the King of Kings?”
So John gave it to them straight. “Don’t think that you’ll be OK just because you can trace your family history back a long way; don’t think that you’ll be safe just because you look respectable. You need to do more than give up doing bad things; you need to make a difference by acting in a much better way.
The money men should stop cheating people; the legal authorities should stop taking advantage of people; and anyone who has enough food and clothing should share with those who don’t.”
The message is still the same today. If we want to be able to receive Jesus when he comes, we must prepare our hearts and lives before he arrives. We must treat each other with respect, we must love justice and mercy and be generous to one another.
Generally we don’t have any problem with this when it comes to our own families at Christmastime, but we need to remember that we are all part of God’s family and we should not let a brother or sister suffer while we hurry by in comfort.
So think about what we do this Advent to help prepare a generous and loving Christmas for all people? After all, God’s generosity was so great that he gave his only Son to make sure we could have new life in the present, past sins forgiven, and hope for the future.
We recently received a request to my Charity Acts 435 from someone who had lost their job, and for the first time in their life had to claim job-seekers allowance. This was a big shock for her, but things then got worse. Because of family illness she had to become a carer, and so was unable actively to seek work. She lost the allowance, and so simply getting by became almost impossible, let alone planning anything special for Christmas. A small donation of food and some warm clothes would lift her spirits and give this family some hope.
Look around you as you rush to the shops, or even as you surf the internet looking for presents. There are places where you can make donations which will make a huge difference to someone who is struggling. Whether it’s an online charity like Acts 435, or a Food Bank at your local church or community centre, or just a quick visit to a neighbour to make sure they are OK and are going to have enough, you can be good news to someone.
The special prayer for today, the third Sunday of Advent, calls upon us to be more like John the Baptist. It says, “give us courage to speak the truth, to hunger for justice, and to suffer for the cause of right.”
This is a great challenge in our society – how willing are we to wake up and change, not only to change ourselves, but to engage with the world to change it for the better.
Tomorrow in the Church calendar we remember Eglantyne Jebb who died 74 years ago. She was a young woman with a strong social conscience. Her heart was deeply touched by the injustice done to children across the world who suffer hunger, poverty and fear because of wars, oppression and greed those in power. She turned her concern into positive action and founded the Save the Children Fund.
Others have risen up to fight against injustice – not without cost to themselves. This week, Nelson Mandela is in our prayers, as he lies in hospital. He is a man who stood up for justice and was willing to suffer – but then forgave.
This Advent, do we have the courage to look at the world and engage with it and see where we can act to make a difference?