With a brilliant Remembrance Day over – from Packwood choir singing to Great Ness’s rendition of Harold Birch’s letters to the lighting of the Beacon – we can now turn our thoughts to Advent and Christmas.
Christmas seems to get earlier every year. This year, there was Christmas produce in the supermarkets in September but once Halloween was over, the Chocolate Oranges were where the pumpkins had been sitting only 24 hours before. It won’t be long until, ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens finds its way onto every shop playlist. Christmas has truly arrived.
When everything proclaims that Christmas is here already – even in November – it can be easy to miss the beauty of advent. Advent is all about the wait. It’s a season in its own right which begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Many people will have an advent calendar to help them count down the long days towards December 25th. Did you know that the printed version is only a 20th century phenomenon? One December a mother cut a cake into 24 pieces and put them onto a piece of cardboard. Her little boy got to eat one piece each day until Christmas. That little boy grew up to be a printer. He always remembered what his mother had done, and in 1903 he produced the first Advent Calendar. It had 24 small windows. Behind each window was a picture of something he had wished for as a child – mostly toys.
It can help the waiting but nowadays waiting is often seen as a bad thing in our culture. We have microwaves and fast food restaurants so that we can get a meal instantly. We download songs we like via our phones the same minute that we hear them. But in advent, the wait for Christmas is a good thing. It’s not just about looking forward to a big party and lots of presents to increase your excitement. As with Lent, it is a time to prepare the heart. Pressing ‘pause’ on a busy life to marvel again at this historic event that changed the course of the world – the incarnation, when God himself came to earth to help us understand his love for us and teach us how to live in it. As the angel told the shepherds: “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”. (Luke 2:11)
I do hope you will be able to join us at one of our Christmas services to hear the wonderful story once again and to sing some of your favourite carols. I leave you, however, with some lines from one of the Advent Carols we will be singing at Great Ness Church on Sunday 2nd December
The tide of time shall never His covenant remove. His name shall stand forever. That name to us is Love.