Happy New Year everyone! We’re used to thinking about New Year being on 1st January, but the start of the Church’s year is the first Sunday of Advent, so this year, it was on 29th November. It was great fun for me to get out the Advent wreath last week so I could use it to make my recording for the Google site service, as I lit the first candle and prayed a special prayer.
Advent is a time of getting ready. We often mistakenly think of it as a time of getting ‘things’ ready – for Christmas. Sending Christmas cards and putting up decorations. Buying presents and getting food into our cupboards. All these ‘things’ do need to be done (maybe on a slightly smaller scale this year), but that is not really what Advent is about. Advent is a season for getting ourselves ready. A time of reflection about the spiritual importance of Christmas and the wonder of God stepping into his world. Of getting ourselves ready to meet with Jesus. If we don’t take time to do that, the danger can be that we become so busy with the ‘things’ and arrangements of Christmas that we lose sight of what Christmas is all about! We’re so busy with the turkey and crackers that we forget the baby Jesus whose birth we are celebrating! Advent is a time of anticipation and looking forward to being in the presence of Jesus.
So Advent is a time of preparation of ourselves – getting ourselves ready to meet with Jesus. But further, there are two aspects to this. Advent is both preparation to meet with the new born Jesus at Christmas time and it’s also about looking ahead – getting ourselves prepared to meet with Jesus when he returns or when we die, whichever may happen first. We don’t know when it will be, but the day will come for all of us when we meet with Jesus face to face. It will be helpful if we’ve thought in advance about that meeting and reflected on what it will be like, how it will feel and what we might say! The prospect of that meeting might even affect the way we live our lives now.
This year I think many of the arrangements for Christmas will just have to be simpler – smaller family gatherings, less parties and going out, less travel – maybe even less food! But my hope is that if these things demand less of our time and attention in the run up to Christmas we will have more time to think about Jesus and the wonderful true story of his birth this year. Jesus’ first Christmas was a very simple one – a bare stable with no tree or decorations (OK, just one star!), no fancy meal, no big family gathering – just a few animals and shepherds (we think the Kings arrived a little later), yet it was the most wonderful, amazing event of all history! God stepped into his world and became one of us in the baby Jesus born in a stable. It’s still the most significant thing that has ever happened and of course by far the most important part of Christmas today, 2000 years later.
So I hope that during this time of Advent in 2020 you will be able to take some time to think and reflect on the birth of Jesus, and to prepare yourself to receive him again, whether this is your first Christmas as a Christian or your 50th. You might take some time in anticipation to read about his ancestry and the events of his birth in the bible. You might take some time each day to pray – maybe light a candle, like on our Advent wreath, if that’s something you find helpful. If you’re online it’s not too late to join Godfrey’s Advent course that we are offering through Advent – details in your notice sheet. But whatever way you choose, I hope that you will see this quieter Advent as an opportunity to prepare yourself for Christ this Christmas, so that when the time is right and Christmas Day comes around, it will be even more special this year.
Rev Chris Advent 2020