The 25th of December marks the beginning of the church’s celebration of Christmas and the end of everyone else’s. When Christmas Day finally arrives, children’s parties at school are a distant memory and office parties are best forgotten! The season will end for many as they nurse their stomachs listening to HM The Queen at 3pm. I am being too cynical of course! However, even in the church, the season of Advent which begins this year on Sunday 3rd December will be overtaken by Christmas services starting around 17th December. I often wonder if we shouldn’t start Advent two weeks earlier so that we can observe it fully. I think Advent is important, not because I am particularly worried about observing “the church year”, but because of the prominence of advent themes in the bible. Prof. Tom Wright observes that if we cut Christmas out of the bible, we lose about three chapters. Cut out advent themes and we lose half of the Old Testament and most of the New.
The story of scripture which finds its centre around a manger and a cross, is about God’s presence being experienced precisely in times of deepest loss and darkness. God’s promises are found to be true when it is almost too late for them to be fulfilled. Locating Christmas at the end of Advent gives our celebration its proper context. Its light shines all the more brightly because of the contrast that Advent sharpens. Tinsel and sentimentality cannot survive the raw honesty of Advent.
I’m so pleased to be associated with our annual “Remembrance Service” for those of us who have lost loved ones. I say “associated” because as many of your will know, the real work is done by our pastoral team. I’m glad that our Christmas (Advent?) Tree is decorated with the memories and feelings of loss associated with the season which are felt by so many. Sometimes these services in other churches are called “Blue Christmas Services”. I think that they are just “Christmas Services”, because that’s what we celebrate.
Entering unexpectedly, mysteriously into the deepest darkness of our world and lives, comes God in Jesus to share in it fully.
God with us. God for us. There is nothing more Christmassy than realising that great truth. For me, that really is something worth celebrating. Grace and peace.
Andrew M. Emison
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Written by the Minister & Members