Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent and the NHS

Good afternoon God,
The BBC has just reported that:
The NHS in England must get better at diagnosing cancers at an earlier stage if it is to continue to improve survival rates, the cancer tsar says.

This report has deeply disturbed my Advent preparations with the fear that it has the potential to evoke for in two days time I will have a biopsy which should enable the doctors to finally diagnose what sort of cancer I have. So far they have guessed at four different sorts, but the truth is - they just don't know - yet. Everything they have done so far has been inconclusive - leading to the last statement that I am 'mysterious and interesting but nonetheless stable!' (Not a bad description of me some would say!)

Meanwhile, I feel fine, I am enjoying excellent health, I have energy, enthusiasm and hope...
So do I want to know the results of the biopsy? And do I want to know the results before Christmas or after?

There is nothing like the threat of the knowledge of death to focus us on the meaning and value of life..

Which is why, I realise now, Advent is so important to me - it is a time when life and death are woven together, when hope and salvation are offered in the face of defeat and despair - comfort, comfort my people...

Unfortunately, Advent is all too often presented as a warning to the Church to get better at early sin diagnosis and improve the chances of survival for your people. When seen this way, the Advent message has the same potential to generate fear as the report on cancer does.

It is believed that this approach to Advent offers the Church a time to focus on the need for repentance and on your wrath and judgement.. the 'Or Else' of Advent - Repent or Die! After all, our survival (or if you prefer, salvation), is,we have been taught, ultimately dependent on our finding and curing the root cause of sin.. and, God, all too many remain totally unaware or just unconcerned about their state of grace before you..

Should we tell them before Christmas - or after?
Will it ruin their Christmas to know?

But this is NOT what advent is for and God forbid that I should ever play into the fear and trembling that denies your gift of grace!

So help me, this Advent, God, to tell people before it's too late, before they walk away from the truth they are too afraid to risk hearing that the coming of Christ is a message of hope not fear, of new life, not death. Help me to sing out with the heavenly host to all those worried about their sin, or the state of their souls - 'Have No fear' for Advent is your promise of love and a sign of your commitment to our health and wholeness, now and always..

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