Advent: Looking back and looking forward

Candle light glowing in woman’s hands. Praying, faith, religion concept.

It is December, and we are in the second week of Advent. The end of the year is a time for looking back on what has happened in the months past, and to celebrate and give thanks for what has been accomplished. December, in the church calendar, is the Advent season, during which preparations are made to celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. The new Christian year begins with Advent and scripture passages from the gospels are read in Sunday worship services to mark its commencement.

In 1755, John Wesley introduced the Covenant Service, which was held on the eve of the New Year or its first Sunday. It has undergone adaptations to become the Watch Night Service of the Methodist Church today. I encourage you to attend this Service in your church for praise and worship, prayer, sharing of testimonies, receiving the Word and partaking in the Holy Communion. More importantly, let us also have time to be alone with God, a time of self-examination, and of renewing the covenant with the Lord. As Isaiah has said, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) In the hustle and bustle of life today, it is imperative for us to have our moments of stillness and calm to reflect and contemplate.

Christmas is a reminder to the Church that the day of Christ’s second coming is near. The Church missed its opportunity to welcome the Messiah when He was born – Word becoming flesh – in a lowly manger more than 2,000 years ago. The promise of Christ’s return will be fulfilled and the Church must be ready for it this time, which is why during Christmas we look back in celebration of Christ’s first coming, while at the same time look forward in eager anticipation of His second coming.

Among the many Christmas hymns and carols, my favourite is ‘It Came Upon the Midnight Clear’. One phrase in its lyrics, in particular, never fails to stir up my thoughts and feelings: “and ever o’er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing”. The world situation is ever-changing and unpredictable; the sweeping migrant tides continue unabated, and global economic woes give serious cause for concern. Increasingly deviant and aberrant ideologies, which are also disdainful of the established order, only exacerbate the already precarious situation. Facing such dire circumstances we may wonder if there is hope for the future. Let me tell you, our hope is in God! This is the blessing given in the Bible:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

May you and your family have a meaningful Christmas full of love and joy!

The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung –

assumes office as Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore upon his consecration on 2 Dec 2016. He had previously been elected President of the Chinese Annual Conference for two terms, from 2008 to 2016. He has been a Methodist pastor for more than 30 years and has been a guest lecturer at Trinity Theological College since 1996.

 Picture by PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek /