The beginning of Advent is framed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With an economic landscape that ranges from absolutely ridiculous high street TV adverts to supermarkets making sure we are prepared for the Christmas Season. It is clear we are still in danger of spending more time at the mall, or online, than at the manger. Christmas trees start standing up in living rooms, and Town Centre shops and public places. Advent wreaths are aglow with promise and light. The Church organises special services. Greeting cards from loved ones, are placed around the house with care. We have lots of preparation for Christmas. It begins even before Advent begins and most of us are more than ready for Christmas to be over with by the time it actually gets here. Yet, in convincing ourselves that we are ready, there is, for some, a nagging emptiness. Maybe it is the rush of it all. Maybe it is the sense of obligation gift-givers feel. Maybe it is the financial over-extension which adds pressure to the late-winter months. For whatever reason, we find that we are not as prepared as we might think. Most of us have tried the commercial side and found it to be wanting. Remember last Christmas when everything was curtailed. There is so much we have learned from the traumatic experiences of lockdown including the valuable contribution of love and care, encouragement and support that was reignited after many years of general indifference. New forms of common life, of sharing, of imagination, of mutual respect and equal dignity, were palpable. Have we forgotten that in our rush to get back to ‘normal’.
The Christian faith is always looking forward, always expectant, always waiting, always preparing. You and I live on the other side of Christmas but we are still a waiting, hoping, longing people. We want our Christmas to coincide with the coming of the Lord. We want that Light to shine into our lives, to illuminate our homes, to dispel the darkness in our world. We want to anchor our lives in that baby named Jesus, to be loved as we have never been loved, to focus our lives on the lasting and important things. We want that Messiah to eradicate evil and eliminate poverty and ease human suffering. We want that voice to stand up for the poor and stand against oppressive powers and prejudice and stand among the hurting of the world.
Because of the One who came at the first Christmas, because of his life, his death, his resurrection and his promise to come again,
Hope shines brightest in December
Courage sparkles in the face of calamity.
Because of darkness, the heavens shower their splendour.
Because of the gloom, Christmas lights brighten the way we go.
Because of adversity, the human spirit finds lights of an inward strength.
In this Advent season I hope you will find the courage to surrender to the miracle of new life that is waiting to be born in you, and that your path be lit by the light of an inward strength, where you can face the world as it has become and make a difference to it, and be at peace in it.
May his light shine with hope from your homes this Advent Season, and in all the seasons of your days and the true light of Christmas brighten the way you go in your coming and going.
Stay hopeful, helpful and healthy