The Christmas Season is coming upon us – it must be so because Christmas cards have been available since September, tinsel and lights have been adorning the shops and public spaces for a while now, and the John Lewis advert has just been released! Seriously, for some – and for me not too many years back – these are the signs that it’s ‘all systems go’ on the countdown to Christmas, Ho, Ho, Ho….
But are these the only signs that point the way to Christmas Day? Surely not… It is true that the secular season of Christmas begins just like this – full-on from the word go with a busyness of shopping, wrapping, partying, planning and prepping that is guaranteed to render us suitably exhausted come the big day!
But there is another way of looking towards Christmas – a way that involves waiting in anticipation of an event that made everything else possible – yes of course, waiting in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. For the Church, the Christmas Season begins on 25th December, and the build up to that day – Jesus’ birthday if you like (see December’s Messy Church theme!) – is the season of Advent. ‘Oh dear,’ you might be thinking – ‘does that mean we can’t enjoy the buzz of Christmas-planning and partying until Christmas Day??’
Fear not! Of course it’s not about being a ‘party-pooper’, but how about going with the idea that rather than opting out of the pre-Christmas Day festive fun altogether, we find the ‘middle-way’ and try and give some time to nourish ourselves spiritually on the inside as well as nourishing our wants and must-haves on the outside?
The Church’s season of Advent can help us do just that. It can help us to try and stay calm and grounded in the busyness by engaging in a pre-Christmas anticipation of expecting and hoping, and waiting and praying, where we can use the time as a gentler and cosier ‘getting-your-home-and yourself-ready’ time as we prepare to welcome a very special guest – JESUS….
Whether you are a person who might be singing ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ as crooned by Nat King Cole…..
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
and folks dressed up like eskimos…
… or a person who might be in church on a Sunday singing Stainer’s ‘Come thou long-expected Jesus’ …..
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free,
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee….
….Let us try and make these December days of Advent balanced with both busy and quiet times. You will be surprised how making time for God – making time to pause and breathe – will actually give you more energy to engage in the worldly Christmas rush with a little more calm and order.
Maybe you can:
- Set aside a little time each day – even a few minutes of intentional ‘pause-and-connect’ time as you open an Advent Calendar or light an Advent Candle, giving thanks for the blessings of being able to prepare for Christmas in whatever way works for you…
- Come along to Church to one of the Christmas services or events (details in this magazine)…
- Say a little prayer for the person whose present you are wrapping and say a little prayer of blessing as you prepare the Christmas food…
- Remember those who are caught up in the sorrows of the world – who might benefit from a prayer, a financial gift via various charities/foodbank – consciously do something that will somehow make a difference, remembering that small acts of goodness go a long, long way…
- Say a prayer for those in need of comfort, strength and hope at this time as they experience illness or caring for someone who is poorly, those who are mourning or who are struggling with life…
- Help out with a local charity who are trying to make Christmas a brighter time for the homeless or the lonely…
- Have a thought – ‘Are my neighbours okay?’ Is there anyone who might be lonely or unable to engage socially or practically in your road and who might be touched by a simple act of neighbourly kindness….
- Give thanks for the birth of Jesus – that from his coming into the world, hope for a peace that can break through all the mess of the world can be ours through faith and trust to join in and be part of the Good News of the Gospel – a gospel of hospitality and welcome and love that is at the centre of the Christian message we proclaim here at St Peter’s, your Parish Church.
So whether your idea of Christmas is about Christmas crackers, turkey and tinsel – or about the quiet and prayerful anticipation of a holy night that saw the birth of no ordinary baby but of a baby who was to become the Saviour of the world – or whether your Christmas has a little bit of both about it, I pray that your Advent and Christmas Season holds promise of love, peace and joy, and I join with all at
St Peter’s Church to wish you a very Blessed Christmas and a Hopeful New Year.
Love and prayers,
Read more clergy letters.