‘We are the clay and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.’

What a wonderful image to have in mind as we begin this blessed season of Advent

It made me ask that when a potter takes a lump of clay, sits at the wheel whether they know exactly what they are going to make.

Sometimes that must be true and the potter Edmund DeWaal is famous for producing hundreds of what appear to be exactly the same pots.

Likewise a potter may sit and want to make a bowl because they have received an order for them and so they make six.

However I have dwelt on the idea that on some days the potter my simply sit at the wheel and see where their imagination takes them.

Maybe Isaiah had seen a potter at work one day and seen the work being done as a metaphor for God’s relationship with us, and it’s still a lovely image ‘we are the clay’ he wrote ‘and you are our potter.’

God has created each one of us, we are the clay, the same in terms of physical components but each one of us unique in terms of looks, size and shape, mind and imagination.

God moulds us in our Mother’s womb, we take our first breath and live and in living we learn that as we grow and experience life, we are re-moulded through it again and again.

Life is the potters’ wheel that turns. We are the clay shaped by that life and we are in the business of discerning God’s hands at work in our lives, revealed to us in all kinds of ways. Reshaping and remoulding us as we seek to live to his glory.

Advent begins today. Our liturgical colour has changed. The mood of liturgy and the hymns are different. It’s a bit strange because wherever else we look, the ‘C’ word is everywhere.

But not here, here we’re in the season of waiting, when we can think of ourselves as being clay to be shaped. It’s a season that has four themes each around Chris’s coming, each has has the capacity to shape us.

  • We think of Christ coming to us as a baby.
  • We think of Christ coming again in judgement ‘to judge the living and the dead.’
  • We think too, perhaps more subtly, of how Christ comes to us now in word and sacrament, in prayer and in worship
  • We think also of how Christ comes to us hidden inside each other.

And it’s that last one, Christ coming to us in each other that I want to spend a moment or two thinking about this morning.

For the last 12 years, twice a year, I am one of four priests in a Cell Group. We all trained together for ordination and we meet up all around the country.

We begin our time together with a night out, our opening liturgy on entering a curry house is 8 poppadum’s and 4 beers. That is where we begin, ready to unwind and we then spend about 36 hours together, talking and listening and sharing our experiences of life.

We love each other and over the years as we have grown in that love and friendship each one of us has changed, through circumstance, place and experience.

We are the same people as we were when we first met, yet we’ve changed as over time parts of us have, like the clay in the potters hand been reshaped.

As dear friends, there for each other we have been part of that reshaping as we have laughed and cried, been challenged, comforted and helped each other make sense of some of the muddles of life.

It’s a time when I step away from my usual routines, think and am somehow more open to new possibilities.

Advent too is a precious time in the church calendar to think, to be clay, ready to be reshaped and open to new possibilities.

Part of that is about sharing the journey with trusted friends, for like my brothers in the cell group, these friends can, act as the hands of God the potter.

Jesus said to his disciples ‘I call you friends’. And we do encounter Christ in our friendships.

You’ll all have similar stories to tell of friendships that have over the years sustained you through life maybe some great sadness or illness. These friends have helped remind you who you are when you’d got lost.

They are precious people who have helped you understand this life, given you some insight you hadn’t quite seen before, helped reshape you and make you who you are today.

I subscribe to an almost daily email from a priest called Charles LaFond. He writes a reflection on something that has happened to him or something about which he is thinking and a couple of weeks ago he wrote this on friendship

‘I consider the tending of my friendships to be the most holy act I can possibly do in my life. Making and tending friendships is the great high priestly act of humanity and in so doing, we welcome Christ over and over again.’

Through our friendships we encounter the Christ who calls us friends, and true friends, always want the best for us, they don’t just tell us what we want to hear but what we need to hear, they act for God, by whose loving hands we long to be shaped.

So Advent begins today and its often a time when cards and greetings are sent and received, a time to give thanks for friendship. To remember those who have and do sustain us with their love.

And maybe if we need it this season can act as a prompt to re-connect with friends whom we’ve lost touch with or maybe simply tend those friendships we so cherish that bit more, for through them Christ comes to us and so we also tend our relationship with God.

I like the idea of God as a potter. It speaks to my imagination of the God who works with the clay of our lives, often through our friends and reshapes us.

Come Lord Jesus, come into our hearts, and re-shape the clay of our lives for your glory. Thank for the friends that been your hands and help us to tend those friendships, this Advent and always.