December is the time to get ready for that which comes much later in the month. There are three and a half weeks of preparation before the celebration. I always remember the fun of opening the Advent calendar each day, finding the correct day and seeing what was hidden behind the door. As a child, I do not recall it having anything to do with chocolate! My first encounter with chocolate was the Christmas selection pack from Cadbury’s in my Christmas stocking, it was always gone before breakfast! I remember the days of Advent being impossibly long and Christmas Eve very slow in coming. I think it is important to dwell a little on Advent. Advent comes from two words Ad which means ‘to’ and Venio which means ‘to come’. So when we put them together it means ‘to come to’. For Christians, it is the time when we come to reflect on God’s promises.
The focus of Advent starts with Abraham and Sarah, and a new relationship with God. It moves on to remember the prophets who called the people to repentance and back to God’s way for the world. The midpoint of Advent refines the focus on the birth of Jesus. The third week of advent focuses on John the Baptist the greatest man that ever lived, the messenger that prepared the way for Jesus. The last Sunday of Advent focuses on Mary the mother of Jesus. These people all look forward to the fulfilment of God’s promise of hope in the life and death of Jesus Christ. So in Advent, we stand alongside these biblical characters who long for God to break into the darkness of this passing world. Advent rightly is associated with bringing light into darkness, promising hope where there appears to be none. Advent, viewed in the light of the resurrection and ascension, also looks forward to Jesus’ return to earth. It incorporates the idea that we have to be ready to meet Jesus. Are there things that we need to put right? Are we still in step with God in our lives? Inevitably Advent also grapples with our readiness to face the end of our lives. Advent can allow us the time to reflect on our mortality. There is a lot to think about in Advent and the opportunity to make changes for good. We are not called to be morbid but to rejoice in God’s promise of transforming us and the world to conform to his perfect rule.
If we have prepared well, we can be truly ready to celebrate Christmas. It is not just about food, drink and presents. It is the idea of a gift that has the potential to change our world. It is about love and generosity. It is about working to make our world a better place. Christmas runs deeply into the whole of our lives and our relationship with God. It would be a shame to only scratch the surface when there is so much more to discover.