Church of the Incarnation

Community Newsletters

Dec 2020 Pastoral Letter

Dear Incarnation family,

Every new year in the Church begins, at least for Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians, with the season of Advent: a call to raise our heads, to stay awake, to take account of how we order our lives; that is, it is a time to take stock, to give thanks for Jesus’s coming into this world and into our day-to-day lives — testing, chastening, beckoning, sustaining and challenging - and to prepare for his second coming to gather all things to him.

One of the distinctions between the way our society often suggests we orient ourselves and the way we are called to orient ourselves as Christians, has to do with ‘where we’re looking.’ More often than not, society asks us to ‘look ahead,’ to ‘leave the past behind and seek our fortunes in the future.’ We’re trained to do this from an early age, generally. But the Christian life cannot simply be about looking ahead. To be sure, we do look for signs of God’s coming, to what we see as ‘the future.’ But in fact, to look solely at the future, to invest ourselves so heavily in it, is to fail to see God coming to us at every moment of our lives - something we often see only in retrospect - and so potentially to miss the signs of his presence with us now. When we miss these signs, the events of our present can often seem to take on more priority than they ought, or they can serve to distract us from realizing how they ought to shape our relationships, our thoughts, our concerns, our sense of satisfaction, and our willingness to love, share, and give of ourselves and of our resources.

As Christ’s disciples we are to look not simply forward to Christ’s second coming, but also to the past to see where he has already come. Christian tradition is filled with this sense of ‘retrospective learning.’ Recalling where God has worked in our lives; seeing the shape of our lives as they so often follow the figures and characters of Scripture that we hear about throughout the year. Like these figures we are asked to place our struggles, failures, losses, hopes and joys before God so that we might have our hearts and minds reoriented to God’s ways.

Our readings over this new year, our Advent, call us to self-examination. But this self-examination is not about a mere moral improvement. Rather this self-examination is a willing self offering to God. It is a petition, a prayer to God to allow us to see ourselves as we really are before him and to see others as God’s beloved. To offer ourselves is to turn our whole lives over to him willingly. That is the fulfilment of the first commandment; and the second is like unto it: our petition to be shown how to live our lives in charity; that is, love of our neighbours; to take of the Bread of heaven and of the Cup of life; that we might be made partakers in God’s own life poured out for this world in which we live. For on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. These summarize the whole of the Scriptures: the gospel and the law. For they are Christ’s own life of willing obedience to love his Father and all people even to death on the Cross, new life in his resurrection, and life poured out for all by incorporation into his body, the Church. Indeed, what we celebrate in Advent and most particularly at Christmas, is the sure hope, the peace, the joy, and the love of life with God, founded in his sending his only Son into the world that we might be forgiven and capable of receiving the love of God that reconciles us to him and that makes all things new.

This season let us take stock. COVID has exposed our true frailty as human beings. It has pressed us to ask questions about ‘what really matters, why we’re here, where we are going as individuals and as a society.’ COVID has served as a true wake up for us as Christians too often asleep; drifting along, uncritically, living in accordance with the behavioural, social and economic norms of our culture. This new year we begin having to live through a trial much like the Israelites endured. God called them to look up, to see him, to seek him, and to repent and open up to his transformation of their lives. So let us examine our lives and where we have encountered God in them. I would encourage you to take the time this season for intentional prayer. Ask God to show you where he is at work, where you need to grow, where you need support, where you can offer support to others, and what God is calling you to for this next year. For we have been equipped and made capable of sharing his love with others. What will this look like for you this year?

The Rev. Leigh Silcox

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