As Advent approaches
Great Yarmouth College
Methodist Local Preacher
All Hallows, All Souls, All Saints and Remembrance Sunday come in quick succession as October moves into November. It's the time of year when the 'great cloud of witnesses' (Hebrews 12:1) who have reached heaven before us are remembered with gratitude. These are our 'balcony people': parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and, especially sadly, sometimes our children, who I always imagine lean down from their heavenly balconies and cheer us on! Who are yours?
In C.S. Lewis' remarkable description of heaven, in his book 'The Great Divorce', the landscape of heaven is so much more intensely real than that of earth that new arrivals find the grass pierces their insubstantial feet. It's hard to grasp that the reality we live in is only a dim reflection of the real world of wonders God is preparing for us. So attached are we to this beautiful earth that we can see death as an irretrievable loss – a tragic finality rather than merely a new beginning
Some believe their bodies are just receptacles for souls which will be reincarnated in new forms, some that their souls live on in a spiritual, disembodied way. Some believe they'll be absorbed into one great cosmic being, some that they'll just be recycled in the earth, and some, nothing - an end, a full stop
For Christians death is a gateway into a life more real and even more wonderful than the one we have now. They believe this because Jesus died but returned to show his followers that death was not the end. And we believe that our bodies, our individual selves and our personalities are the stuff of heaven.
Approaching Advent, far from waiting passively for this transformation to happen, we are called to do all we can to close the gap between earth and heaven, to share the divine restlessness that seeks to end war, injustice and poverty. Meanwhile I wonder if our 'balcony people' applaud our efforts as ecstatically and rapturously as we did our Olympians'?!