This Sunday is Advent Sunday. This season of the Church’s year invites us to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas. In many churches, the Advent Prose is sung throughout Advent at the start of Communion services:
“Drop down you heavens from on high,
And let the skies pour down righteousness”.
It compares the goodness of God to rain, refreshing our weariness, as we reorientate ourselves towards preparing to celebrate at Christmas God’s cosmos-changing event of incarnation, in the birth of the baby Jesus.
Rain refreshes the earth and assists its fertility. The acronym RAIN gives us four starting points for contemplating the goodness of God, as a way of refreshing our perspective. This meditation invites us to imagine ourselves ‘after the rain’, when the ground is soaked in life-giving water, the pavements washed clean, the air smelling fresh and cleansed of the dust. So – you can make this exercise you own – just for a moment imagine that you are setting out into the sunshine after the rain:
R – Recognise
The first stage in a journey to a deeper awareness of God’s presence is to recognize where we are and what we are experiencing. Recognition is about observing your life that is visible and revealed is above the line. Now recognize what is below the line: the large part of your life that is hidden. Recognise in your own life what is below the line. For example, I am really tired or I am experiencing anxiety, or I am thinking about something I should have done, or something I have done wrong. I am holding anger, hurt, guilt or blame within me. What do you recognize within yourself beneath your defences? Recognising involves seeing the things within ourselves that we may have been denying.
A – Allow
Allow is a liberating word. It means that you are not under judgement or condemned for being who you are. Allowing says to you that you are loved by God no matter what. You are not under judgement, rather, you are held in God’s grace. All of you. Allowing is intrinsic to healing. In ‘letting be’ I invite Christ in too – for He is the most basic and fundamental reality of all human existence – we accept and welcome the presence of Christ in our hearts and lives, not to point out the failure, but to allow his love to occupy the fearful derelict space in our hearts. And the first stage of allowing – as with the rain – may simply be to soften the soil or to wash away some of the self-accusations. You can’t do this all in one go; it will take time. But it is important to begin.
I – Illuminate
This illuminating is about allowing the light in to see what you could not see and may have feared. It is seeing within – beneath the line. Illuminating is like the moment when Thomas sees the wounds of Jesus and begins to realize that the very wounds that destroyed love can become the signs or place of resurrection. The darkness is the very place in which the seed that’s been planted begins to break open and the tender shoot of fresh beginnings grows into the light.
The final stage in this Advent contemplation is to nurture the good. It is Christ’s love for you as a whole person and the realization of his compassion at the very centre of all that you are. It is living in and allowing that goodness and compassion within you to grow, It is paying both yourself and your neighbour and the world loving attention. It is allowing yourself to let the compassion in your heart grow, rather than the condemnation. It is the gentle slow growing realization that you are not eternally defined, in God’s eyes, by failure, but held in love. And grace sets you free, free to also share the same liberating and refreshing grace with the world, beginning at home and work.
I hope this little exercise of RAIN helps you.
Services throughout BTCP this weekend: 28th November: Advent Sunday
8am St Peter’s: Communion
10am St Peter’s: Communion: I shall preside and our good friend,
the Rev’d Dr Gareth Sherwood, will preach.
10am St Augustin’s: Communion: The Rev’d Steve Parselle.
10.45am St Stephen’s: Communion: The Rev’d Stephen Holmes.
4pm St Peter’s: Advent Carol Service
Next Sunday, 5th December, Advent 2.
8am Communion St Peter’s
10am Communion St Peter’s: The Rev’d Dr Chris Steed will preside and preach.
10am Communion St Augustin’s: I shall preside and preach.
10.45am Communion: St Stephen’s: The Rev’d David Lund.
4pm Choral Evensong: St Peter’s
At the Reform Synagogue, on Christchurch Road, at 7.30pm on Thursday, 2nd December, there will be an open meeting of the Council of Christians and Jews at which Rabbi Maurice Michaels will speak about Hannukah and I shall say a few words about the Christian season of Advent and how it might impact our lives for good. All are welcome.
Amongst others, your prayers are asked for those who are approaching the end of their lives: particularly for Trevor Lambe and Jen Fisher.
Their many friends will be very sad to hear that Ann Baker suffered a stroke died. Pray, please, for Steve and their children, Robert, Helen, James and Susan. Ann’s Funeral Service will be at St Peter’s on Monday, 29thNovember, at 1.30 pm. Join us in giving thanks for Ann.
Might we politely ask you to be just a little more conscious than we have been recently of the desirability of making and keeping church as a safe space? Please, let us refrain from leaning over others and from hugging them? Masks can be worn at worship in all three churches – although it is no longer a legal requirement. Sanitising remains a safe practice. If you don’t want to be next to folk who are singing robustly, just quietly and politely move away. Our churches are large enough to accommodate people with a variety of views and vulnerabilities.
Communion will continue to be offered in one kind (bread only, dipped lightly into the consecrated wine) to those who queue, one by one, distanced, in the main aisle.
Let me know, please, if you can help with teaching in Sunday School – it is an urgent and sharp need, to enable us to care properly for the many children who are brought to our churches.
Enjoy the week!
he Rev’d Dr Ian A. Terry
DTh, PhD, MA, FRSA
Visiting Research Fellow: Winchester University
Team Rector: Bournemouth Town Centre
Chair: Local Governing Body: Bournemouth Collegiate School
18 Wimborne Road, Bournemouth, Dorset BH2 6NT
Registered Charity Number: 1186400