So Advent is about waiting. To remember the way that the Hebrews waited for their Messiah, and because we’re waiting, too. We’re waiting for Christmas, true enough, but we’re waiting for our Messiah as well. Waiting for the day that you come back.
It’s about coming – anticipation. About expectancy. About knowing, hoping, the ‘I can’t wait‘-ness. In some ways it seems to me that the children have got it right – each day they ask me how many days before Christmas. They’re counting it down on the Advent calendar (I’m not sure we’re doing it in order; so far we’ve got one angel, one shepherd, one of the three Wise men and some livestock. Hmm) and they’re counting down the weeks, days, hours and minutes until it’s Christmas day. Now that the Christmas tree is up, the tinsel and the decorations and I have my Christmas Mug and Christmas Woolly Slippers, it must be nearly here. They can’t wait.
I like the idea that Advent should be more reflective. Like Lent; a time of thoughtfulness and meditation. Preparing for the arrival of the king. Preparation. Incremental readiness. Getting myself right – or at any rate as right as I can manage. I like the slow-down-and-get-ready idea.
So why do I find myself doing exactly the reverse? Picking up the pace and galloping headlong into Christmas? Looking at my calendar the next few weeks are a chaotic melange of Christmas plays (the children) parties (the children) events to go to and shopping trips to be organised. Thankyou for the Internet, that’s all I can say. I am busy and preoccupied with lists. Clearly I’ve bought into the Western twenty-first century Festive season. You know, the one where we spend a fortune and wish each other a politically correct Happy Holidays instead of Happy Christmas.
It’s hard to wait. Impossible for a small child; Elizabeth came home from school today with her Christingle and ate it. Ate the dried fruit and the marshmallow pieces and then dismantled it and ate the orange. We did manage a quick photo of the candle before it was left on one side; it had to be a close up because rest of the Christingle disappeared while I took the lens cap off.
It’s hard for a child but it’s hard for a grown up too. We find so much to fill the time. We forget that there’s anything but the present (ha ha, no pun intended) and we take no notice of the future, so wrapped up are we (ha ha again). I rush and plan and I make lists and the days are ticking away. I’m losing my opportunity for reflection.
The kitchen is littered with decoration boxes to be returned to the loft, presents to wrap, wrapped presents, cards to be written, cards to be hung on the card holders (when I get round to putting them up) shopping that’s waiting for the arrival of our Christmas visitors, and packages waiting to be addressed and posted. All very thoughtful and reflective, I don’t think. I am a blur.
I read another blog earlier on and the lady who wrote it has found time to make stunning Advent wreaths and design a mantelpiece decoration with baubles and crepe paper. It looks lovely. I haven’t found time in the last few days to replace some missing curtain hooks in the living room. I think maybe she’s got it right. Or perhaps she’s just more organised than I am.
Tell you what, Lord.
My Mum bought me a little poinsettia the other day. She put it on the windowsill in my kitchen and waited for me to see it. I’d been in about a quarter of an hour before I noticed it. It was a lovely surprise, particularly when the sun shone from behind it.
The lovely red leaves glowed, but what was particularly arresting was the way the green leaves looked when the sunlight lit them from beneath. Each darker green vein stood out, delicate, intricate. The tiny berries in the centre of each cluster of leaves shone. It stopped me in my tracks. I went over to it and touched it’s leaves and turned it this way and that and then took photos. Beautiful. More beautiful than any of the decorations that came out of the boxes in the loft.
It’s a gorgeous plant. I’ve just got to work out how to keep it alive at least until the festive season is over. On the other window sill my stunning faithful cyclamen is nodding across to the newcomer with a slightly smug smile. He’s been here since September, after all, and is still going strong.
Well, the decorations are up and the house looks festive. The cupboard is filling with treats that will take some working off come January. The children are bursting with pride having learned new songs for the Christmas play which is next week. The advent calendar is developing into a Nativity scene, even if it’s a little bit unorthodox in its storytelling. Presents will be bought (eventually), cards written (probably), extra beds made up, cakes baked and carols sung – but it’s all trivia, because you know what? (of course you do.)
The Light of the World has come.
He came more than two thousand years ago and only a few people realised it was Him. He lay as a tiny baby in a scratchy, smelly trough of hay and the whole world, except a few people, didn’t notice that things had changed forever.
Elizabeth waited until her old age to bear a child.
Mary waited for it to happen to her as the angel had said.
Joseph did as he was told and waited.
John the Baptist waited for One to come who was greater than he.
The Hebrews waited for their Messiah.
Jesus waited until the time was right to start his ministry.
We are waiting for you to come again. We’re waiting for Christmas.
Psalm 27:14 NIV
So amid all the bustle of Christmas and the commercialism and the overdoing of everything I am waiting.
Yes, I’m waiting for the bits and pieces that make up our celebrations but I am waiting for you.
I’m waiting for Christmas morning when I can whisper ‘Happy Birthday‘ to you, Lord Jesus.
I’m waiting to greet my church family and sing carols and wish the people that mean so much to me a Happy Christmas.
I’m waiting for anything that you want to teach me as I count down the days. Just help me stop dashing every so often to see the sunlight in the poinsettia leaves. To see the tinsel glittering and the lopsided lovingly home-made angels on the Christmas tree.
To see candlelight in the darkness and know that it’s you.
The Light of the World has come.