Friday, 16 December 2016

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Time is of the essence

This two-month issue of the Parish Magazine covers three seasons of the Church’s year: Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Of the three it’s Advent which is probably the most neglected. Christmas has carols, cribs and shepherds, Epiphany has wise men and glorious gifts. Advent is more abstract. Its traditional themes of the Four Last Things - Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell - are not easily dealt with, and not really matters that most people want to think about. On top of which Advent tends to get pushed out of the way. It’s become “pre-Christmas:” a time of anxiety in shopping for presents, worrying about who will get missed off the greetings card list, and getting ready for the day or two when supermarkets will be closed and we fear we might run out of the excessive amounts of food and drink we plan to consume (and all those parties before Christmas).

But Advent properly observed is a corrective to this. The one aspect which survives in popular culture is the Advent Calendar. It’s become a sort of countdown to Christmas with a chocolate a day. But fundamentally it is about “time.” We number the days. The Psalmist had prayed that we may learn to “number our days” - and that’s to say that we need to recognise the preciousness of time. Time we are given - a gift, God’s gift to us. Time which is an opportunity not to be wasted.

In the Church’s Calendar, Advent is the beginning of a new year - so can we use it as a time of resolution? Right from the start, be patient even as we get anxious about Christmas preparations. Learn how to pace ourselves. Give up being so caught up in activity that it leaves us only fit to slump. How can I best use my time? - for my own benefit; to help others; to spend time with God. “We wait for the Lord” in this season of Advent. Let’s recognise that virtue of waiting, and be all the more joyous in our Christmas celebration. MJ