A message from Matthew:
At the time of writing, we have reached that wonderful time of the year known as Advent. It may or may not be a word that is familiar to you. Many people will recognise the word from growing up with advent calendars, or maybe an advent candle.
Advent is one of a number of seasons of the Church – the times of the year where we set our focus on some particular aspect of the life of Jesus. I suspect you will have heard of Easter, I have no doubt that you will know Christmas… but what about Advent? It is the period of four weeks running through the end of November and most of December leading up to Christmas.
Let me offer a few thoughts about what I think make Advent such an important time of year.
When we are young, we just want it to be Christmas! It can’t come fast enough! But I wonder if you have noticed that as we get a little older, we perhaps begin to enjoy the build up almost as much as the day itself. Any holiday or special time is wonderful – but the looking forward and anticipation is also very special. That is what Advent is all about. Anticipation and getting ready. But actually Advent looks forward to two things.
Firstly Christmas. We remember the extraordinary truth that God came to be with us and live a human life as Jesus, born in a stable in Bethlehem. We tell the story in nativity plays, we sing the story in carols, and we celebrate the joy of it all with presents and crackers and so on . . .
The second thing that Advent looks forward to is the time when Jesus will come again. Heaven and Earth unite, all pain and wrong is dispelled and Jesus reigns as King over all. We don’t know when this will happen, and Jesus simply tells us to get ready! So again, that is what we focus our thoughts on in Advent. Are we ready to meet God face to face? Wow! What a question! . . .
I wonder if the latter helps us to make better use of the former. For many people Christmas is an unhappy time. There is pressure to buy stuff that perhaps we cannot afford. We might feel pressure to spent time with family with whom we do not have a happy relationship. And so many people across the world live in poverty, are homeless, are refugees from horrific situations . . .
So I hope you enjoyed Christmas in whatever way you could – but please do spare a thought – and maybe something more – for those who struggle. I can think of no better way to use Advent and the New Year.
I hope and pray that your Advent preparation was holy and enriching. And I wish you a very happy New year.
With love and blessings,