Happy New Year!
No, no, I haven’t gone completely mad. I’m not a month ahead of myself – it really is a new year – a new year in the Church calendar.
The Church year starts on Advent Sunday (four Sundays before Christmas Day) and it is a time when we are called to wake up and get ready for the coming of Christ . This getting ready means preparing to celebrate his first coming 2000 years ago; it means inviting him into our hearts through the power of The Holy spirit today; and it means looking forward to his second coming – when peace and justice will reign in our world always.
Special prayer for the start of Advent
In the first week of Advent we pray a special prayer which includes the words Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. I love this prayer and think it’s worth stopping and thinking a bit about what these words really mean.
What is the armour of light?
First of all, the words come from a letter that St Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome around 60AD. Paul has been talking in the letter about what it means to be a Christian – reminding his readers of the ten commandments and how they have been fulfilled in Christ’s command that we should love one another as he has loved us.
St Paul then says that now is the moment to wake from sleep. By this, he means that it’s time to wake up and to stop just going with the flow, doing the same as everyone else in our culture.
We need to wake up, cast away the things we know are damaging for ourselves and for others and put on the armour of light. We need to put on clothing that will protect us from temptation.
Paul speaks about the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of hope.
Why do we need the armour of light?
We need this protection because life is a battle. We are constantly at risk of being assaulted by temptation and injured by living our lives out of line with God’s will.
There will be times every day when we are bored or busy, lonely or overwhelmed, discouraged or puffed up with pride. We can then very easily respond to these feelings with alcohol or binge eating or spending hours on social media or saying and doing unkind things.
But what if we have put on the armour of light? What does it mean to do that?
What putting on the armour of light looks like
Well, it means that we took the trouble and found the time to start the day by reading our Bibles and praying – maybe alone or maybe by going to Morning Prayer at our local church. It means we went to Church last Sunday (and we go every Sunday) and we really absorbed the message about God’s calling for us to be a blessing to all nations. It means that we punctuate our days with prayer so that we are more Christlike in our relationships with others.
This is what it means to put on the armour of light.
Advent is the time running up to Christmas and it can be stressful. You may feel fraught; you may feel frustrated; you may feel forsaken. Whatever your feelings, remember to out on the armour of light every day and be protected.
St Paul goes on, a couple of verses later, in his letter to say put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Clothe yourself in Christ. Clothe yourself in faith in Christ, in the hope that you have of new life in Christ and in the love of Christ – for you and for the whole world.
And as the special Advent prayer goes,
May God grant you the 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 Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day…
we may rise to the life immortal. Amen.