Advent Homily

Who would have thought time could pass so quickly? It really doesn’t seem that long ago that we gathered together to sing carols in anticipation of Christmas morning 2015.

And what a 12 months it has been. I’m sure you would agree that 2016 has seen many highs and many lows.

Watching the news, we see that our world continues to be dogged with natural disasters and with violence. There have been earthquakes and landslides, there have been floods, Tsunamis and forest fires; terrorism continues to blight many parts of our world with the innocent sufferings of so many; I’m sure in our minds at the moment is the attack on the innocent people of Berlin and the sufferings of so many who have fled from Aleppo.

For some people, perhaps some of us gathered here today, there have been personal difficulties and hardships over these last 12 months.

Some of us may have lost family members; some may have lost friends. There may also be some here for whom that experience is anticipated and perhaps drawing near and for you, perhaps being with one another here today can be a source of comfort.

So, be it in good or not so good times, we gather in worship; many of us gather as a people of faith. And we do so because, even in times of adversity, we can see that there is also good in the world.

I’m sure you would agree with me when I say one of the greatest moments of 2016 was of course Honey G being voted off the X Factor (at last!) with, of course, my namesake and prediction Matt Terry winning the competition. Then, there was that other great event; my Gogglebox favourite Scarlett Moffat winning the ‘I’m a Celebrity’ Queen of the Jungle title.

But seriously, there are so many good things that happen in so many different places; even in our wee community that is St Andrew’s Hospice. There are highs; good things and achievements in our year that cause us to smile, to laugh, or even just make us feel proud. There are too many to mention them all but things like Dr Brandon finishing her 1000 km challenge and raising over  £3,000; the huge achievement of our fundraising team who do so much throughout the year, but who this year, managed to raise an amazing £167,000 at the Snowflake Ball; our Capital Appeal team who have gone past the halfway point of raising the £9million needed for the Hospice refurbishment. Even more dramatic, and perhaps quite unbelievable, is the nursing staff who attended the Snowflake Ball. Attending the Ball wasn’t the unbelievable part; the unbelievable part was them successfully making it to the correct bus stop for the bus back to Airdrie!

With all of that of course, there is the love and care of our Nursing Staff, our Medics, our Domestic Staff, Complementary Therapists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, our Community Palliative Care Project Team, the Catering Staff, our Senior Management and Administration Staff, the  Maintenance Staff, and not forgetting the Education, Support and Counseling Staff all of whom contribute, either directly or indirectly to the very special care that takes place, not only in this building, but throughout Lanarkshire.

What we do here on a daily basis, I believe, is part of the reason we gather as a people who understand that even with the difficulties many people face in life, we are thankful that life remains precious and good.

Often at this time of year we get caught up in all the hype. We worry that we might not be organized in time. There is only one day left to get everything sorted for Christmas Day on Sunday.  For some people, the only connection with the ‘Reason for the Season’, is Boney M’s ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ or the Johnny Mathis song ‘When a Child is Born’ playing in the shopping malls.

The Christmas story, in itself, is not the story of our salvation; it is however the beginning of the story. The story of the Christ Child, born in a manger, leads us to or points us towards a greater celebration; the celebration of Easter. The great event when our Salvation was achieved through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. The time when we proclaim the great Hallelujah, He is risen.

Some of you will know that my Sundays are spent at Church; there’s a surprise. Now I realise that, even for people who profess a living faith, Church on a Sunday is not for everyone, but for me it’s how I like to start the week ahead. It’s my ‘me’ time; it’s my ‘God’ time.

But sometimes, depending on how my week has gone, or perhaps there are things in my own life that are proving difficult or even if I’m a little under the weather from the night before, then there are times I can get distracted while I’m at Church.

I’m there and I appear to be attentive but sometimes my mind is all over the place. At times, I’m not aware of what has been read by the Lectors or indeed preached by the Priest.

The one thing I do always remember though is the music; the songs that relate to the liturgy of the day.

So today I wondered how I could make the story of Christmas and what it points us towards, memorable for each of us.

For a few weeks I have been searching for a song that would be appropriate; a song about Christmas but a song that would also point us towards that great Hallelujah of the risen Christ at Easter.

You wouldn’t believe the artists that have written songs based on passages from the bible; Sting, Cliff Richard, Elvis, The Stone Roses, Queen, U2 and The Doors to name but a few. Apart from the Johnny Mathis and Boney M numbers I mentioned earlier, none that I searched focused on the Nativity story or indeed its relevance to the Easter story.

Wouldn’t it have been amazing if Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah, the great Proclamation at Easter spoke also of the Nativity…

Our Christmas Nativity focusing us on the role the Christ child played and continues to play in our lives.

So next time you hear Alexandra Burke or Leonard Cohen sing Hallelujah, think of that Christ child and what he did for us by becoming one like us at Christmas.