Advent Sunday, and Christmas are a little over three weeks away! We are in the lovely, warm, and joyful season of Advent, but beyond the expectation of Christmas there lies the thought that Advent portends the second coming of Christ at the end-time: indeed, the four traditional Advent sermons are on death, judgement, heaven, and hell, a gloomy but inescapable thought The first of the traditional sermon topics posits the inevitable conclusion of our lives, the other three topics depend, to be absolutely frank, on opinion: there is no evidence beyond that which may be speculatively deduced from scripture and tradition.
How do we face death? Do we agree with Dylan Thomas ‘And death shall have no dominion’ or with the same poet’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’? Do we empathise with hopeful Richard Crashaw ‘Though still I die, I live again… for while thou sweetly slayest me, dead to myself, I live in thee’, or with Thomas Campion’s ‘O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to thee’.
Much emphasis has been laid in spiritual writing on being prepared for a good death: on our journey through life, however, can we really improve on Our Lord’s comment to the Pharisees ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ and ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.
Plant in my soul, O Christ, thy likeness of love;
That when by death thou callest,
it may be ready,
to come unto thee.
Above all the speculation, the mystery, the fear of death, we know that when we pass from this mortal life, we shall be received into the arms of a God who is eternal love.
Deacon Douglas Macmillan
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ
came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.