‘Arise, shine for your light has to come’
A Sermon preached by The Rt Revd Karen Gorham, Bishop of Sherborne.
From Darkness to Light: The Advent Procession.
We read in the book of the prophet Isaiah ‘Arise, shine for your light has come’.
I heard this week of people being turned away from garden centres last weekend because they wanted to buy a Christmas tree only to be told they were not yet in stock. I am sure many have decorated their tree this weekend. The eagerness to get the decorations up and the lights on the tree is a reflection of our need to cheer ourselves up and bring some light into our lives almost as soon as the clocks go back.
This is a sign that all is not well with the world, no longer are we content with opening a picture window on the advent calendar or counting the days until Christmas, we instead want to also comfort ourselves with bright lights and Advent calendars full of daily treats of not only chocolate, but make up, stationery and even small bottles of gin!
It’s not surprising as we face a winter of anxiety, concerns over heating have given rise to warm spaces and an increase in fleece purchases, seat warmers and hooded blankets; industrial unrest has caused us to lose faith in the punctuality of postal deliveries or train travel; food banks are in need of supplies as demand grows; and our news remains full of stories of the tragic war in Ukraine and those seeking refuge. Whilst some need to be extremely thankful, many are concerned about all sorts of things.
And tonight, we meet here, motivated both by advent tradition, but also the need for a warming wonder-filled experience. Listen carefully to the readings, as they too speak of a scrambling in the darkness to find the light, of a people hoping for something more, of a yearning for brightness and joy and salvation. And of a Saviour that came to be the light of the world and who lived and died and rose again to be our light too.
Listen to the words, and then sing out in the carols your own hope for something better. As we journey around the Cathedral we are reminded that Advent itself is a journey, towards the Christlight, and as candles are lit each one can be a sign for the hope in your hearts, as you bring your own prayers to God here.
Be cheered by the joy together we kindle, so your Advent journeying will be a blessing to you and also to others, and Christmas when it comes will not only be the culmination of the preparation but will be a celebration of that light, our light, Jesus Christ our Lord, the hope of all hopes, and the joy of all joys.
Each candle of Advent expectation kindles a hope within us; and each grows less by burning, recalling the cross Christ bore. Lord of the Cradle and Cross, we light our candles in thanksgiving, we gather in worship and we wait in wonder.