It would be very easy to start celebrating Christmas in November wouldn’t it? The switch-on of the Christmas lights in Sunderland is the 21st of the month, John Lewis Christmas advert was launched of the 14th November and it seemed like retailers had their shelves packed with Christmas goods just as soon as the Halloween stock was moved! Popular culture wants us to have Christmas as early as we can, there seems to be no need to wait.
Now I don’t want to pour cold water on all the excitement and the joy. But I wonder how this plays out for us if there are reasons why we’re not felling very joyful at all at this season? There may be good reasons why we don’t feel joyful! What if we’re missing loved ones through separation or distance or bereavement? What if the season places too much pressure on finances or on relationships and it’s actually quite a difficult time of year? As we’re pushed by retailers and marketers to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas and to spend lots of money to achieve that, are we at risk of missing something really important? Are we at risk of missing something of God?
Advent is traditionally a time of waiting, a time of preparing, a time perhaps of rediscovering the promise God makes for everyone in Jesus Christ. During the weeks of Advent in December, I want to encourage us to consider afresh what it means to prepare for Christmas and not to miss out God! We might make this a time to refocus our prayer lives or it may be in Advent we make this a time to recommit to regular Bible reading. It may be that this is a time when we can pick up a devotional or study book to help us reconnect with this season of Advent (there are many such books available, we have a few copies of this years’Follow the Star’ book available for a small donations in church). I want us when we’re together in our services to acknowledge we’re in the presence of God, the God we believe who came into the world in Christ and who we believe will come again.
Ultimately this is about making time and space for God in this Advent season – whatever our own circumstances- perhaps in the busyness or the pressure this time of year imposes, perhaps in the sadness or the loniness we might be experiencing, perhaps in the frustrations and uncertainties we face in our national life at this time. Wherever we may find ourselves, at the moment, I want to encourage us to make space for God who comes to us in the Christ-child to share all of our humanity with us. I leave and commend the following prayer for us in Advent:
Faithful God, you keep your promises
and come to meet us again in Jesus
help us to prepare our lives
and make space for you once again
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With my prayers and best wishes for this upcoming season,