I’ve been thinking about writing a blog about advent for a couple of weeks, but there’s just been so much to do with very little spare time! So now I find myself on Christmas Eve, with tomorrow’s talk written, most things sorted in the house for The Big Day and a couple of moments to spare.
It seems to me that Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. I love sampling the seasonal specials in Nero and Starbucks with the best of them (Clementine Hot Chocolate was my favourite this year!) but it does bugs me a bit when the Christmas cards are stacked in shops from August bank holiday onwards!
In the Church, we have the season of Advent before the season of Christmas. Advent is about waiting, anticipation and preparation. We all know about advent calendars and candles. But the idea is that we calm ourselves before the arrival of Jesus, a bit like a mini Lent that we have before Christmas.
I have to say, though, Advent has been completely transformed for me this year. I have had the joy of waiting with one of my closest oldest friends for a baby boy to be born. I don’t think I’ve ever waited for a baby in the same way before. As he took his time in arriving, each day the suspense grew and I’ve managed to grasp in a new way what this season is about.
When Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem, they didn’t know exactly when the baby would come, but they did know that it would be soon. Mary was ‘great with child’. When they reached a place to stay, all be it a garden shed, they must have been so relieved that they were settled before the baby came!
When my friend’s baby was born, I felt such joy and relief when I got to church that morning. I cycled in thanking God for a safe delivery and for the miracle of new life! ‘He has come!’ I wanted to tell everyone!
So I wonder how much of that joy will really transfer into tomorrow? Tomorrow when we celebrate Christmas we think of another baby born this time of year. A baby born in a small place of no consequence who would go on to change the world with his love, his life, his death and his resurrection.
I know many Christians who get frustrated by the amount of people who go all out for Christmas without any engagement with the ‘reason for the season’. But personally, I am delighted that millions of people repeatedly say the word ‘Christ’ over and over again when they wouldn’t usually. I am delighted that I have heard Christian songs about Jesus on the radio every morning this December. And I’m delighted that people seem to be more open to engage with the Church at this time of year.
But as the pressure builds to have the perfect day tomorrow, don’t forget that a baby being born in a stable is far from perfect. He didn’t come so that we could cripple ourselves making Christmas perfect and shiny! He came so that he could be with us, and give us life in all its fullness.
I’ve learned a lot about myself this advent. I had to take my driving theory test and I got rather stressed about it. It reminded me of revision and exams at school and how I responded to that environment. I didn’t respond well. But it gave me a chance to really appreciate how far God has brought me. I’m definitely a work in progress, but thankfully I’m not where I used to be. But it’s through that tiny baby born 2000 years ago that I have been transformed, and will continue to be transformed.
So the wait for the baby is nearly over. And yet his transforming power in our lives is only ever a prayer away, whatever the time of year.
Have a very merry, happy and holy Christmas.