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November 2015 – St Mary’s Great Chart & Singleton
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November 2015

This months blog is written by Martin Lees, one of our readers

The recent tragedy in Paris has captured our attention and given us much to think about.  Coincidentally 130 people (and counting) have also been killed in the escalating violence in Burundi this year, and there are concerns that that country is heading towards another Rwanda-style genocide, but that has not captured the headlines to nearly the same extent. Inevitably things that are closer to home are more newsworthy as we feel more affinity and can more easily imagine something similar happening in London (as, of course, it has).

But although Burundi seems more remote, the world today is very inter-connected. Many of the refugees flooding into the EU are fleeing from situations of terror in countries such as Burundi. We should be praying for the people in those war-torn African and Middle-Eastern countries as much as for the people of France.

This Sunday we begin the season of Advent, when we think about preparing not only to celebrate the marvellous miracle of Christ’s birth, of God becoming a human being like us, but preparing also for Christ’s coming again.

When there seem to be increasing numbers of acts of war and natural disasters it is tempting to wonder whether these signify the beginning of the End Times. But through the ages there have been many such troubled times and usually someone could then be heard predicting that “the end is nigh”. Some Christians are especially keen on trying to identify the signs that “this is it” – which is ironic, since Jesus made it very clear that we should not behave like that. He told his disciples not to ask “when will this be?” or “what will be the signs?” I think that’s because that knowledge would actually be unhealthy for us: if we knew that the day of Jesus’ return was very remote we might become discouraged; if we knew it was next week then we would probably make a great effort at holiness, to get our house in order and “peak at the right time” – but how genuine would that really be? God calls us to be authentic disciples through and through, which means our lives should be pleasing to him at ALL times.

In any case, our own death will effectively be the “end of the age” for each one of us. The fact that people today are generally living longer may be one reason why death is rarely contemplated or discussed – a taboo subject. But the Paris attack, so out of the blue, reminds us that, whatever our age, we can never know when that might occur.

So it is all the more important to live each day as if Jesus is coming soon. John the Baptist urged his followers to prepare for Jesus’ first coming by sharing their food and possessions with those less well-off, being honest in their work, and generally living moral lives (Luke 3:10-14). Similarly Jesus urged his disciples to act likewise in anticipation of his coming a second time; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison (Matt. 25:31-46).

Acts of terror are designed to instil a culture of fear. The decision of three cinema chains to refuse to screen a Church of England advert featuring the Lord’s Prayer to promote prayer seems to indicate the terrorists have had some success in that. But perfect love is said to cast out fear. Knowing Jesus should help us to face up to the prospect of dying. It is fundamental to our faith that Christ overcame death once for all. In the Creed we say we believe in “the life everlasting”.

So let’s use Advent as a period of taking stock of our lives, for considering whether Jesus would commend us for our treatment of others. But also as an opportunity to remember that, whatever tragedies, atrocities or persecution take place, Jesus said that “these things must take place” before He comes again in glory (Luke 21:9). He is still in control, the sweep of history is His Story, and, we can look forward to the happiest of endings.


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