Church of England Diocese of Hereford Billingsley

Thought for the week, 29th November; Saving Christmas and keeping Advent

So now we know; there is a plan to “save Christmas”; up to 3 household mixing for five days. I am aware of the pain of loneliness and isolation that is always especially sharp at Christmas and so I am glad that there will be ways to bring people together. But I am also aware of the risks associated with this; the vaccine is not yet deployed, the virus remains virulent when people mix at close quarters. As the prime minister aptly put it, we need to be jolly careful to have a jolly Christmas and a happy New Year. I’ve recently been pondering the thoughts of David Thompson, a retired Bishop who lives in the diocese of Hereford. I am grateful for his permission to use his words.

“[Christmas] is all about …saving us, not us saving it. That is about real light shining perilously in real darkness, not fairy lights on a tree. …. Even if warm hearths and family togetherness are what we long for, they are powerful because they speak not just of a kiss under the mistletoe or a blow-out meal but of a deeper sense that winter will not have things all its own way, of unconquerable light. We’ve been celebrating it since Stonehenge, and we want and need to celebrate it now.

From ancient times Christians kept fasts before they dived into their feasts. They didn’t take the waiting out of wanting: they knew that a bit of waiting, a bit of preparing, a bit of pondering, would make the feast all the more fun.

Cue Advent: not just the Advent of a boozy miniature a day in December, but the Advent that starts 4 Sundays before Christmas and takes us slowly and carefully through the Bible’s story of how we got into this pickle we call life, and how God’s plan to join us in it and raise us from it came to pass. It’s all those readings you’ve heard at a traditional Carol Service, but old school, taken slowly, savoured for all they’re worth. Then at Christmas the Great Twelve Days of Feasting can begin.

So, this year, how about Saving Christmas by Keeping Advent? Look for safe ways to buy the presents and order the food. Give some time to writing some personal cards or messages. Then dust down your Bible and look up the stories for yourself. Light a candle for each Sunday. And enjoy the peace. Peace now, as you give Christmas the best chance it can have of going off well; and the promise of a peace that passes our understanding that can surround us come what may.”