Once again we find ourselves at the beginning of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus. A time of reflection, a quiet oasis of calm to stop and think about what it means that the saviour of the world comes among us.
At least that’s what it’s supposed to be. Reality however can be somewhat different, as we can easily get caught up in a type of madness – the shops are full of decorations, wrapping paper, mince pies, and many beautifully packaged Christmas presents. We’ve had ‘Black Friday’, an import from America where hordes of people take their lives in their hands to pick up a bargain at 3am (to illustrate the craziness, I saw one store which was advertising Black Friday on a Monday!).
Then of course there’s the Christmas ads which have become something to look forward to. The poor old lonely man in the moon is sent a telescope by a little girl on earth so he could watch the festivities on earth… am I the only one who thinks that’s odd at a time where many are lonely and looking on? Or there’s Mog the cat who manages to destroy his family’s Christmas – but never mind, the neighbours come to the rescue with things bought from a well known supermarket. Very sweet.
I then discovered that there is a whole TV channel devoted to showing Christmas films, the likes of Elf, The Polar Express and Scrooge. I could spend all my time, energy and money watching TV whilst shopping online for presents and food if I wanted to. It has a certain appeal.
But do I want to? I’m confused. I spend much of my time from the beginning of November thinking about Christmas services and how to convey the Christmas story and its message in a meaningful way. But then I also have to consider decorating the tree, presents for the family and food for the holiday. How can I manage not to get caught up in the madness too much?
If I’m confused, I can’t begin to imagine how those involved in the first Christmas would feel. I try to imagine the adult Jesus standing in the middle of Oxford Street a couple of weeks before Christmas. What would he make of it all? I turn away quickly from that image in case I see him with bewildered tears in his eyes, or anger. I see him looking at the world as it is with all its problems and challenges and wondering what on earth we are doing.
There are many symbols associated with Christmas, a cuddly man with a beard and a red suit, a decorated tree, presents, food… but in the midst of it all the world seems to have lost the true symbols of Christmas: the star, the crib, the image of a young woman confronted by an angel, the struggle. A baby, ‘God contracted for a span incomprehensibly made man’, lay at the centre of it all.
My hope is that during this time of preparation and waiting we have a chance to really think about what it means. So that when we reach the celebration on Christmas Day we appreciate not only the gifts but also the presence.
I hope to see you all during Advent and at Christmas.
God Bless and keep you,