Advent Day 1 - Liz's thoughts on Advent

Advent is a time of preparation and waiting. Why do we need this time? After all, we know the story, we know how it all pans out…so what’s the point?  As I have got older and become Anglican (!!) I have begun to appreciate this time of both looking back and looking forward to the familiar story of the baby in the manger. Along with the looking forward to the crib, is this hard to define, looking forward to the Kingdom of God being fulfilled when Jesus returns….a second time, however that happens, whatever that means, whatever that looks like. It is a mystery at any level. Emmanuel, God with us.

For me, it is a way of life to fight the darkness of the never far away depression. I find the short days and the darkness of winter, appalling. So Christmas brings light; not only the light of candles (which we start lighting in autumn at home) but also the lights of Christmas. At a deeper level, light in the darkness... the hope that the Christ light brings to our broken lives, our broken world.

Giles Fraser spoke last year, (‘3 Talking Vicars’ Radio 4) about Christmas being the most radical festival of all. It celebrates a powerful transcendent God becoming powerless and imminent; again this mystery, Emmanuel, God with us but so easily getting lost amongst the tinsel.

In a blog Fraser writes. The folk religion of Christmas doesnt generally appreciate the astonishing and from the perspective of the Jewish understanding of God from which it emerges even blasphemous idea that God almighty, the creator of Heaven and Earth, might appear in a smelly shed, shorn of all his divine superpowers. God-become-human is a terrifying prospect, with Heaven emptied, and all the hope of the world invested in a tiny, defenceless child. By the time the Church reads out the story of Jesus and his family running away to Egypt to escape Herods murderous rage, the folk religion bandwagon is already packing up its toys for another year. They have missed the point that the vulnerability of the infant to worldly violence is a sinister prefiguration of the bloody end this child will one day meet. Its not just a festival of bouncing babies. Its a festival that prefigures the shadow of death.

And its important to get that bit because otherwise the message of the angels — “fear not” — doesnt really make much sense. Fear notsaid he for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind,we will sing. And what more appropriate message could there be as we prepare once again to walk through the shadow of death, as Covid stalks our land?

Christmas is not an escapist fantasy that gives us all a little break from the gloom in which we are enveloped. It is a direct response to the land of death. As St John puts it in that famous reading that ends every carol service: What has come into being with him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

It seems so obvious to me now that preparation is necessary. But this does not mean 4 weeks of seriousness. No! This is may be serious reflective anticipation but it is also joyful….fun. So open each Advent door on this virtual calendar with expectation - be ready to laugh, be puzzled, as well as reactive, think, wonder and pray.