This Sunday, December 4th at 4pm, we are holding the ‘Blue Christmas’ Service in Michaelhouse, a service with carols, reflections and prayer for those for whom Christmas is a difficult time. Shops and commercial advertising suggest that Christmas is full of magical joy and family happiness, which is bound to amplify the sense of loss and loneliness people feel after bereavement or when life is hard and depressing. The religious observance of this season with our advent themes of longing, perseverance and hope recognises that suffering and darkness are part of human existence. The Christmas story itself, of course, takes place in challenging circumstances with Mary giving birth in a stable, surrounded by strangers and then becoming a refugee in Egypt. The whole season is about offering light and hope in a world where many people’s lives are marred by conflict, poverty, climate change, as well as a lack of meaning and purpose.
The advent book, I recommended, is about ‘Praying with the Psalms’. Over the years, and particularly in the Christian Community I led in my previous post, I have come to hugely value the wisdom of the psalms through praying them on a daily basis. The American Old Testament Scholar, Walter Brueggeman says, 'The book of psalms provides the most reliable theological, pastoral, and liturgical resource given us in the biblical tradition. In season and out of season, generation after generation, faithful women and men turned to the psalms as a most helpful resource for conversation with God about things that matter most.'
Here at Great St Mary’s, they are part of our regular round of worship, at Morning Prayer, in Choral Evensong and at Compline, but I wonder how many of us pray with them on a regular basis. The questions many of us live and wrestle with; the feelings we experience on a daily basis are all expressed in the psalms- they provide a source for reflection and honest conversation with God. There are no quick fix answers, but challenge and encouragement, wisdom and hope for living as a God-seeker. Advent is a season which invites us to let God be part of our lives, especially if we are hurting, struggling, wanting Christmas to be over sooner rather than later.
 The Spiritualiy of the Psalms, Augsburg Fortress, 2002, p.1