Father Shenouda Mansour - General Secretary for the NSW Ecumenical Council, and a Priest in the Coptic Orthodox Church - considers our common calling to live a life of grace, as Christ is born in our hearts.

Advent is the journey to prepare the heart to receive the Birth of Christ, to be born in the stable of our hearts. Christ is born on Christmas Day, and Christ is born in our hearts and lives when we receive Jesus gracefully into our lives. This journey begins. And how do we maintain this journey of grace through the many challenges life offers us? This answer is given in the Common Grace passage of today of Anna the Prophetess and the Child Jesus growing in the Spirit.

The life journey of Anna the prophetess is revealed for our learning. God desires us to live in righteousness, holiness, integrity and a spiritual journey of faith, love and praise. Jesus is constantly talking to us and saying to us, “come and follow me”. My heart raises to Heaven and I ask Him, “How do I follow you…How do I live with you”? The soft voice responds, “come, and I show you”.

God talks to us! We are reminded of our own journey of faith – to be guided by prayer, fasting and praise. This simple formula reminds all of us, regardless of laity, clergy or religious life…that God desires us to devote our lives in the journey of faith that will lead us to Eternal Life with God.

The example of Anna the Prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel shows us of devotion in her own journey of faith, through her service to the temple and spirituality. We are reminded of her age to reaffirm us that age does not count. God loves the cheerful giver. God loves the heart that gives and requests makes everything supplications in prayer, fasting and praise.

What counts is God seeing the intent of the heart and its context. The simple recipe shows a path to God. Placing all matters before God through prayer. Anna the Prophetess practiced fasting all her life. Through prayer and fasting, your prayers will be heard. We must remember, fasting has many levels and ascent to God. As Christians, the holy life with God is the basic daily fasting from activities that leads us to sin. It is to keep away from all unrighteousness and activities that will stain the heart and build a wall and barriers with our relationship with God. God desires a pure and righteous heart to maintain a strong relationship with God.

Since our life is filled with challenges, how do we respond to these daily? The response is, God calls us to a common calling of grace - a life filled with grace through the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, we are reminded how Our Lord Jesus was filled with Grace and power from a young age.

This passage teaches us a journey to faith that will strengthen our life with God. It is living the Gospel, for thorough it, we fulfil God’s laws and commandment of love toward our fellow man.

Through the constant prayer, fasting, and praise, our hearts and our inner man will be able to live the gospel of Christ daily, to perform God’s will in our lives daily. God desires our eternity. God cannot force us, but invites us to love by His love and grace. This can only pertain through constant prayer and abstaining from sin and living the life of holiness and righteousness.

As the Advent period comes to a close with Christ to be born in Bethlehem – where Bethlehem means ‘the house of bread’ – we ask to be born in our own hearts and in our lives. Come Jesus and be born in my heart. Come Jesus and lead my heart to eternal life. Come Jesus and walk with me. Come Jesus and dine with me.

The year 2016 is coming to a close, and we ask God to bless our journey of faith as He did with Anna the Prophetess and with the Holy Family.

May we reflect our journey for 2017 on how we could maintain and build our relationship with God by starting the new year in 2017 with Christ born on our hearts, to grow strong in spirit through the common grace that God offers constantly for free. Amen!

The Very Rev Fr Shenouda Mansour is the General Secretary for the NSW Ecumenical Council, and a Priest in the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Image credit: Luca Baggio

Daily Reading Luke 2:36-40

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

An Advent series on "Being Present"