Watching in Advent

John Henry Newman, a portrait of 1844

“Year passes after year silently ; Christ’s coming is ever nearer than it was. O that, as He comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven ! … pray Him to give you the heart to seek Him in sincerity. Pray Him to make you in earnest.”

During Advent we are posting four passages on Advent themes from writers of different backgrounds. This passage from an Advent Sermon ‘Watching’ of St John Henry Newman dates from 1837 – at a time he was an Anglican priest.

“You have one work only, to bear your cross after Him. Resolve in His strength to do so. Resolve to be no longer beguiled by “shadows of religion,” by words, or by disputings, or by notions, or by high professions, or by excuses, or by the world’s premises or threats. Pray Him to give you what Scripture calls “ an honest and good heart,” or “a perfect heart,” and, without waiting, begin at once to obey Him with the best heart you have. ‘ Any obedience is better than none, — any profession which is disjoined from obedience, is a mere pretence and deceit. Any religion which does not bring you nearer to God is of the world. You have to seek His face ; obedience is the only way of seeking Him.

All your duties are obediences. If you are to believe the truths He has revealed, to regulate yourselves by His precepts, to be frequent in His ordinances, to adhere to His Church and people, why is it, except because He has bid you 1 and to do what He bids is to obey Him, and to obey Him is to approach Him. Every act of obedience is an approach, — an approach to Him who is not far off, though He seems so, but close behind this visible screen of things which hides Him from us. He is behind this material framework ; earth and sky are but a veil going between Him and us ; the day will come when He will rend that veil, and show Himself to us. And then, according as we have waited for Him, will He recompense us. If we have forgotten Him, He will not know us ; but “ blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching. …. He shall gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat,, and will come forth and serve them. And if He shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” May this be the portion of every one of us ! It is hard to attain it ; but it is woeful to fail. Life is short ; death is certain ; and the world to come is everlasting.”


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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