Advent is a season of expectant excitement and hope.
A church that obviously lived in that Spirit of expectancy and hope was the church in Corinth to which St. Paul addresses his letter. What was the cause of this vibrancy and how may we learn from it?
First of all Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthians “My brothers and sisters” and assures them of the Fathers’ Grace and peace, leaving them in no doubt that whatever differences they have they are family – children of God and adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
In the same way we gather around the banquet table of God as his valued and wanted guests all members of the same family.
The faith of the Corinthian church had seen their lives enriched but this didn’t happen by accident - it only happened because the testimony of Christ had been strengthened in them. They hadn’t slackened off, their zeal had not abated. They were a vibrant noisy church with plenty of conflict – but as a Bishop in Canterbury once said when called in to settle differences in a large charismatic church there – I’d rather have problems caused by growth rather than problems caused by decline.
For the Corinthian church the good news of their salvation has been received, read about, studied, debated, prayed about – they worshipped noisily and fervently - and as a result the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit have grown in them, building them up into a strong vibrant church.
Here then today’s church has a template for its own growth in depth and evangelical zeal.
Paul reminds them that the Father himself called them all personally.
If we feel jaded and at times our faith flags we need to remind ourselves that it is God the Father himself who has called you personally, by name, to be here.
He calls us all by name and you, whoever you are, are wanted and needed right here and right now in this place.
We wouldn’t be the same church if any single person were missing. No-one is surplus to requirements. To be called by God is a privilege and a great responsibility.
God wants us here. He wants us to grow into a faithful enriched community that can enrich the lives of others.
If we don’t feel up to it, he will strengthen us. Because If the light goes out in our eyes we can’t give light and hope to others so we need to pray for strength and we need to nurture and support each other. After Alex died that happened to me. The light dimmed – but God is faithful and my own faith is now renewed.
God is faithful and will answer our prayers. As a community we can grow, we can change and we can reach others and allow them too to flourish. We need that confidence in ourselves that is born out of a confidence in God.
Advent is above all a season of anticipation and hope. Hope for the healing of the whole world but in the immediate future hope invested in the power of God to work and empower, enliven our communities with His Spirit.
In particular – this community – our community.
We are to be a community of hope and belief – belief in the transforming Spirit of God. The same Spirit that indwelt Jesus, the same Spirit that we hope will transform the world is the same Spirit that will guide and strengthen and enrich us here.
This I believe is Advent hope. The Spirit breaking through into our lives, church, community and nation.
God is here so what is left for us to do is to commit our lives, and respond to the gracious God who is always calling us, always bidding us to draw near to him. Advent is an ideal opportunity to hope not just for the eventual transformation of the whole world, it is the time to hope and pray for the strengthening, the transformation and the enrichment of ourselves and our church.