Choral Evensong on The Third Sunday of Advent 2022

  • Preacher

    The Rev'd Michael Rawson, Sub Dean and Canon Pastor

The Rev'd Michael Rawson preaches at Choral Evensong on the Third Sunday of Advent.

Around ten years ago I visited Sweden in the middle of winter. Temperatures were around -15 which puts today’s temperatures into perspective. There was over a metre of snow in parts and long icicles hung from the gutters of houses. They become rather dangerous when they start falling off during the thaw so you need to do some nifty dodging. It might be the land of the midnight sun in the summer, but in winter it barely gets light and when the sun finally appears it only shines for two or three hours. For the first time I understood why the Swedish shop IKEA has such a large candle department. When you went to a meeting there were candles lit on the table. Arriving at someone’s home there would be a collection of candlelit lamps on the doorstep. Candles and warmth play a huge part in making a place welcoming and contributing to our feelings of well-being.

Later today, the Swedish Church in London will hold their annual Sankta Lucia service here in the Cathedral. It is mostly celebrated in the darkness and into the dark church comes a procession of singers holding candles, following the lead soprano, crowned with a candlelit headdress and representing St Lucy. It’s a celebration of the triumph of the light of Christ in the midst of the darkest nights of winter, bringing hope and joy. We celebrate her feast day this coming Tuesday. We know very little about her, only that she lived in Sicily at the beginning of the fourth century and gave away all she had to the poor rather than allow it to pass to her betrothed who was not a Christian. She was martyred for her faith in the Incarnate Christ. Lucy’s name means light and she points to the light of Christ, bringing hope and joy in the darkness of this world.

One of the joys of Advent for me are the readings from the prophet Isaiah which are full of hope and anticipation and yet this afternoon’s first reading does not make for the most comfortable reading. We hear a rather familiar story of those living lives of excess and extravagance feathering their own nests at the expense of those around them. The reward for such people is not to be recommended:

‘Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure; the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and all who exult in her.’

In a nutshell, they are on their way to eternal damnation in Hell.

People are given the choice of following after those who live on their importance and earthly influence or by following the

‘Lord of hosts who is exalted by justice and the Holy God who shows himself holy by righteousness.’

The reading ends with a reference to ‘only darkness and distress; and the light grows dark with clouds.’ The triumph of light puts this reading into sharp contrast. St Lucy followed as a disciple in the way of Christ, living a life of humility, justice and openness to the poor and dispossessed and was rewarded with the martyr’s crown of life. She who responded to the light of Christ coming into the darkness of this world in her turn helped to show others the way of light and truth and peace.

In two week’s time we will proclaim once more the prologue from St John’s Gospel:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’

As we continue on our Advent journey may we long for and look out for the light of Christ coming among us in the darkness of our world. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.