Nether Heyford Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul
This year, Advent Sunday falls on December 1st, marking the beginning of a new Church Year. Unsurprisingly, Advent Sunday also marks the beginning of the season of Advent itself, a period of expectation and preparation as Christians everywhere prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and look forward to his future return. Advent is a period of watchful waiting for the joy of Christmas.
But these days, we’re not very good at waiting. We live in an age of instant gratification and next-day delivery. Waiting is hard. So we fill Advent with activities to make the time go quicker, and anticipate the excitement to come; Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, decorating the Christmas Tree, writing Christmas cards, and so on. And we have special calendars to help us countdown the days and weeks to the big day. In church we light candles on the Advent wreath to mark the four Sundays before Christmas, to remind us that with the birth of Jesus, hope, peace, love and joy have come into the world.
And, of course, we have Advent Calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas Day. As a child, I remember we had a glittery Advent Calendar, with a snowy stable scene on it. Behind each window there was a little picture of a character, animal or item associated with the nativity story, and on Christmas Eve, a large window depicting the full nativity scene; parents, shepherds and wise men gathered around the child in the manger. When Christmas was over, the windows were closed again, and the Advent Calendar put away for the following year. These days, there are a multitude of Advent Calendars, many of them filled with little chocolate treats, whilst more ‘grown up’ versions offer different teas, gins, cosmetics and so on, for each day of the season. However, visiting Flore Primary School recently, I glanced at the ‘Families Northants Magazine’, which suggested something radically different – an Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar, which invited children and their families to do a small act of kindness on each day of December, such as greeting everyone with a smile, helping to cook a meal, donating tins and packets to a food bank, and so on. Isn’t that a wonderful, selfless idea! Perhaps we can all give it a try!
So as we watch and wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, I pray that we might all be inspired to know and share the hope, peace, love and joy of the season, during Advent, Christmas, and on into the year ahead.
With prayers and best wishes for Advent, Christmas and the New Year,
Yours in Christ,
Stephen – 01327 344436