December 2018

Advent: expectant waiting for Christmas?

Christmas is a glorious season of the year. It is also a busy time for most of us, and it is very easy to let the hustle and bustle of planning for it obscure our appreciation of Advent.

Advent is a season of expectant waiting; but waiting is not something most of us do easily. Indeed, in our credit-driven society we are urged by many advertisers to ‘buy now – pay later’; we can have it all immediately so why do we need to wait? Waiting is increasingly a strange notion. We have become accustomed to immediacy and swift action.

Given all this, it seems ludicrous that the church should have Advent – four weeks dedicated to waiting. I suppose many people today would argue that Advent is irrelevant to our society; it is outdated and out of touch with the pace of people’s lives. There were times when Advent truly was Advent; when Christmas trees weren’t set up until Christmas Eve, when carols weren’t sung until Christmas Eve and the following days, and not begun in November. When this was the norm, then Advent could be properly Advent and Christmas, Christmas.

The anticipation, which looking forward to Christmas brings, has encouraged us to ‘anticipate’ Christmas in another sense, not as ‘looking forward to’ but of ‘bringing it forward and beginning the celebrations early’. This is certainly true of many of our shops where it seems that we are no sooner back from summer holidays than we are entangled in yards of tinsel, baubles and wrapping paper and ribbon.

But the joy of learning to wait is to re-discover the pleasure of being fully and joyfully present in the now. After a month of waiting, truly waiting, the joy of Christmas Day can gain a new depth and meaning, which might otherwise be lost in the whirl of mince pies and presents.

Viewed like this, Advent is not irrelevant, or a cultural dinosaur, but vital to human well-being. Advent offers us the time to delve into a deeper truer encounter with ourselves, the world and most of all with God. The Advent season offers a space to progress towards Christmas and anticipate the joy of celebrating the light of Christ coming into the world.

Our anticipation of Christmas should be a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by Jesus. Giving, not getting, brings to
full bloom the Christmas spirit. We feel more kindly towards one another. We reach out in love to help those less fortunate. Our hearts are softened. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.

As the Advent season envelops us in all its procession towards Christmas, I pray that like the Wise Men, we may seek a bright, particular star to guide us in our celebration of Jesus’s birth. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift of love to God.

With every good wish for a very blessed and joyful Christmastide. Do please join us for one of our services:

December 16th 2018 4pm – traditional Carol Service followed by mulled wine and mince pies

Christmas Eve 3pm – Crib Service
11.30pm – MidnightCommunion

Christmas Day 10am

– Family Communion’

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