Santa’s elves are busy getting ready for Christmas, shops are full of Christmas goods and decoration and lots of people are busy with preparations for Christmas – writing cards, buying presents, arranging meals etc. But then we also hear voices saying it is too commercialised and busy, the emphasis is wrong. This is a confusing time!
The church also seems confused. Advent restraint is proclaimed while Christmas carol services and other Christmas services are held in Advent. The church’s ambiguity is not new. In sixth century France and Spain the churches observed forty days of fasting before Christmas, it was a season of penance, in Rome at the same time it was very different – it was a festive season, a season of joy culminating in Christmas. These two threads of joy and restraint weave through Advent to this day.
It can be easy to be grumpy about it all, and say ‘Bah, Humbug’ and have a nostalgia for Christmas past when it all seemed simpler.
So what do we do? At the beginning of Advent, Jesus calls us in Mark’s gospel to be watchful, alert, aware. God comes to us so subtly that at times we can not see, hear or feel God’s presence. Advent wants us to slow down, be aware of the possibilities,the beauty within and outside us. Take quiet breaks from the busyness of the “Christmas Season”, and allow yourself the joy of Advent, of waiting expectantly joyfully for the one who comes to set us free.
Our church Posada visits have begun. Our small nativity figures will visit a wide variety of places in our parish in Advent. By tradition their first visit is usually an unusual one. This year they began in a Victoria sweet shop. Their first visit reminds us of the ambiguity of this season – nostalgia, children’s joy, santa’s preparations and love and expectation of what is to come. Our hope is that as our figures go on their journey they will prompt quiet moments for spiritual reflection in this wonderful season.