I met Derek and Jane at the weekend at the Belfrey’s Advent cafe. We talked about Christmas. They told me that although they weren’t churchgoing people they were hoping for more from Christmas this year. Not more tinsel and turkey. And not more presents – although a few thoughtful ones would be nice! What they were really hoping for was something deeper: greater peace on earth (across the world) and good will to all (particularly in their family). I sensed a spiritual search in them – a desire for deeper faith – and after chatting more I offered to pray with them, which they were pleased to receive. I suspect Derek and Jane’s desire is mirrored by many in the North and in our nation. They are looking for faith in Advent.

Advent is a great season for new or renewed faith because the Advent stories tell about the coming of Jesus and of people who stepped out in faith and put their faith in him. Those stories help us, rooting our faith in the lives of real people and pointing us to the One in whom we’re invited to place our faith – Jesus Christ.

People are still putting their faith in Christ today. We’re seeing a good number most weeks in the life of The Belfrey in York. They’re reaching out to a God they don’t see, but whom they discover is good, real and present.

Faith is like that. It’s not totally blind faith, walking naively into the unknown. It’s normally considered, based on discussion, thought and prayer. But in the end, there is a stepping out into the unseen and unknown. That’s why Steve Backlund is right when he describes faith as ‘believing something you don’t see’. Bill Johnson takes this further when he says that ‘faith provides eyes for our hearts and minds’. Those definitions remind us that if we’re to get the most from this Advent season we must see beyond the immediate. You need to pray for ‘the eyes of your heart to be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which you are called’ (Ephesians 1:18) – and help others discover the same.

Advent is a time for faith – for seeing the unseen even more clearly.