As I start compiling this post, so it has just gone dark outside, therefore meaning that Advent has ended and the Christmas season has begun. I’m very aware that I’ve only written and posted one blogpost during Advent this year and that was in no way related to this important liturgical season. So this my small attempt to make amends by reflecting on the past twenty-four days of Advent 2013.
For once, this year Advent started on the day all manufacturers of Advent calenders think it always does – 1st December. For those who don’t know, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, thus meaning it can begin as early as 27th November or as late as 3rd December. Whilst we should use the season to help prepare ourselves to be ready to celebrate the Incarnation at Christmas, it is inevitable, especially with mainly expatriate congregations like mine, that earlier celebrations of Christmas intrude into the Advent season in the form of Services of Lessons and Carols.
Therefore, maintaining the established pattern of having worship on the second Sunday of the month in Brno, we held a Service of Lessons and Carols there on the evening of Sunday 8th December. This effectively marked the second anniversary of the establishment of the Brno Anglican congregation, as we held our first ever service in Brno; also one of Lessons and Carols, in December 2011.
This year’s Brno Carol Service was a real encouragement as several of the existing small congregation, invited other friends who came along and attended for the first time. We also were joined by a British/Romanian couple who had just discovered us via our Church website. Together, we made a very joyful noise with our singing of familiar Christmas Carols, interspersed by readings from scripture. It is a shame that it will be a full five weeks before our next Brno service on Sunday 12th January 2014. But all of the new worshippers gave me their contact details and were keen to join us again in the new year.
The following Sunday evening, 15th December, we held the Prague Service of Lessons and Carols. There was a similar programme to the Brno service but with the addition of three delightful solos. The congregation itself was a mixture of regulars, some infrequent Church attendees, together with a number of visitors. Seasonal refreshments in the warmth of the Church Hall in Klimentská 18 following the service, gave me a chance to talk with at least some of the new faces.
We have yet to have any really severe winter weather in Prague though we did get a dusting of snow on the day before the Brno Carol Service.
And we have also been treated to several delightful sunsets. This one is from the evening of Sunday 15th December just before leaving the Chaplaincy Flat for the Prague Carol Service
Whilst this one is from the evening of Saturday 21st December – the winter solstice.
The following day was the Fourth Sunday of Advent. As can be seen in the slightly fuzzy photograph at the beginning of this post, not only did we have the wonderful hanging Advent Ring with all four candles lit, our host Czech congregation had also erected their Christmas Tree, ready for the forthcoming days of the Christmas season.
Our Gospel reading last Sunday, told of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Joseph as recorded in Matthew 1. 18-25. Together with the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 7. 10-16, they are the only two places in scripture where the name ‘Emmanuel – God is with us’, appears. We therefore had to sing that great mediaeval Advent hymn, translated from the original Latin, ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’, that expresses our longing for the coming of Christ – for God to come down and dwell with us.
But we ended our worship by singing a twentieth century hymn by the Methodist hymn-writer Fred Pratt Green, ‘Long ago, prophets knew’. At the end of the first three verses, the question is asked, ‘When he comes, when he comes, who will make him welcome?’ But in the chorus that follows the fourth and final verse, a positive affirmation is made; ‘Jesus comes! Jesus comes! We will make him welcome!’
If you are unfamiliar with this modern Advent hymn, I found this version on You Tube. Don’t be confused by the opening with a couple of lines of ‘This is the truth sent from above’, sung by a soloist – the correct hymn then follows! May we all be ready this Christmas, to make welcome, God with us – Emmanuel.