December 2019:

With thanks to the Canon John Chambers for this month’s contribution.

   

Are we there yet?

We always seem to be in a hurry to get to places and if there’s a short cut I am sure most of us would take it. In science fiction, we see some creative solutions to that question. Characters can teleport from one place to another and I suspect that many of us would be tempted to use such methods if we could to avoid long journeys and satisfy our impatience. However, if we could do that, we would lose out on what those journeys could have entailed. Imagine, for example, arriving instantly at your destination of Ambleside having not travelled through the beautiful Lake District.

This is how I see Advent; a rich and important journey which we so often miss as we get sucked in to the commercial belief that Christmas is already here. I am writing this letter in November and the shops have been full of festive Christmas cheer for over a month already. The irony is that while our shops and media begin Christmas early and end it on 25 December, in the Church, Christmas truly begins on 25 December. The Christmas season then continues into January until Epiphany, by which time the shops have long forgotten it and are stocked ready for Valentine’s Day! It seems to me that at best, Advent is misunderstood and used only as a countdown to Christmas.

So what is Advent all about?

Well it is, of course, partly to do with remembering Jesus’ birth and, because of where Advent is placed in the Church calendar, we cannot but help looking forward to the Nativity. Opening doors on our Advent calenders, (chocolate ones please), does indeed help us countdown until Christmas. However, and I’m sorry if I shock you, this is not what is at the heart of Advent.

The word comes from the Latin adventus which means ‘coming’. So the season of Advent can be thought of as a time of looking to the past as we remember Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and to the future in anticipation of his second coming.

For Christians this changes the way we engage with Advent, it shifts its focus from the past to the future, and in turn challenges us to look at how we live our lives in the present.

Of course we need to think about Christmas before the day — shopping, decorations, nativity rehearsals, cake making and so on — but despite the excitement and anticipation that Christmas brings, there is still room to experience the significance and richness of the Advent journey.

Christmas is a time of great hope and joy. What better time to take on a new challenge together. May God bless you this Christmas and as you travel on your advent journey.