We are now well into Advent and it is obvious by looking around that people are busily preparing for Christmas. Traffic volumes to and from our shopping centres has greatly increased and both evening and weekend access is a test of endurance and patience. Christmas decorations which started to appear in windows and on doors at the end of November are now almost complete and decorated Christmas trees have nearly all been put in place. In our homes special Christmas baking is well in hand and the festive turkey and ham has long since been ordered. All in all, for most people it may be a case of (to quote a well known cliché) “much done, more to do”.
But have we forgotten something? I believe that we have. With all the frenetic activity (much of it inspired by media advertising since mid-October and which has now introduced us to such concepts as Black Friday and Cyber Monday) we have become so caught up in our worldly preparations that we have lost sight of what Christmas is all about. We have become so distracted that without knowing it we will be wishing others Happy Xmas or even Happy Holiday. In other words, unless we are very careful we will be leaving Christ out of Christmas entirely. It is precisely for this reason our Church’s year begins with the season of Advent.
To quote the ‘Introduction to the Season’ in “Times and Seasons”, a Common Worship book of Services and Prayers for the Church of England (Church House Publishing © The Archbishops’ Council 2006), “Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement…. The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate sense of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16:22)”
At this time of year, in addition to the distraction from things relating to our faith, we can also fall into the trap of being distracted from the very obvious needs of those less fortunate than ourselves. However, if nothing else,Christmas is the time for giving and receiving gifts. For most of us, if we took the trouble and time out we would discover that we have received very generously of life’s bounty. There is therefore a responsibility upon us to give generously in return. The recent media coverage of the death on the street of a homeless man just a few metres from Dail Eireann has generated much comment. If nothing else, it has further highlighted the plight of the homeless and those suffering from addictions. The unfortunate fact is that funding for many central programmes dealing with these crises has been drastically cut and it is up to private fund raising efforts to take up the resulting slack.
As we prepare to celebrate the season of Christmas with our families and friends, may we be mindful of those for whom Christmas is not such a joyful time and if possible to include them if we can. May I take this opportunity on behalf of my wife, family and myself, wish each one of you a blessed and holy Christmas and a happy New Year.
- ‘Prepare a Place’ Diocesan Advent Appeal – your donations needed!
- December 2014 – Monthly Church Service Details