Fighting for Advent

My mum was always a keen horse rider and an equestrian image came to mind today when I thought of the losing battle that I’m fighting trying to rein in Christmas!

Of course, by the time you read this, Advent Sunday will be upon us and the countdown to Christmas properly begun. And yet, every year it seems that people’s eagerness to start gearing up for Christmas gets earlier and earlier. I noticed this year that, as soon as the clocks went back and nights started drawing in, I heard radio discussion and saw adverts on television with a Christmas theme.

We’ve also had the blessing of the Christmas lights switch-on here in West Malling which attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the High Street. I even got to share a stage with the TV legend that is Philip Martin Brown (Mr Budgen from Waterloo Road)!

But I also had a few parishioners speak to me in complaint because that lights switch-on was so early. What particularly seemed to upset some was the fact that the Remembrance Sunday parade took place with those marching flanked on either side by (as yet unlit) Christmas lights. I have some sympathy for their upset and if it’s any reassurance, I have fed that back to the organisers to try and think about for next year.
Especially in a economically gloomy time, I can understand the desire of shopkeepers to maximise the Christmas period but, at the same time, there are other considerations.

St Paul once wrote that people say ‘everything is permissible’ but he countered ‘not everything is beneficial’. ‘No one should seek their own good, but the good of others’ (1 Cor 10.23-24). It’s great to see big community events happening, but sometimes we need to reign in aspects of that community to benefit and honour other parts of that community.

Christmas will be with us soon enough. Elsewhere on our website this month, you’ll find details of all the Christmas services and I’d like to draw your attention to one or two changes; especially on Christmas Eve where there will be two Christingle services this year at 3.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to handle the increasing demand.

But in the meantime, try, please, if you can, to let Advent take its course. A pleasure deferred is a pleasure intensified after all. Until Christmas comes, there is much in Advent to value and draw from. We can tend to be cynical or distracted in our rush to Christmas, and forget that the shape love takes, if we will wait and allow it the time it needs, can often surprise and catch us off-guard.

It would seem to me a great shame if one of the greatest times of the year passes us by because we’re too distracted, too busy, or too intent on creating a minds-eye vision of what Christmas should be, to enjoy the progression in Advent and then the shape of what Christmas actually becomes.

So take your time this Advent, allow space for it to surprise you. Why not join us in church each Sunday to mark the Sundays as a rhythm and discipline for yourself and then, when Christmas does come and we celebrate God’s love made manifest among us in Jesus, may it be a very great blessing to you.

David Green