An early Advent reflection, written for Marlborough’s Tower & Town
It is late November, and Advent will be upon us soon. Advent: a time of preparation for Christmas. However, for many of us, the preparations already started weeks ago. Looking at the shops, listening to the radio, and walking down the High Street, it feels more like Advent being the beginning of our Christmas celebrations, not a time of preparation and expectation.
Of course, there is a practical aspect to it. We need to give Royal Mail their time to deliver our cards, and those of us who are not on Amazon Prime, will have to get our Christmas presents in good time. We may also be worried that if we leave it too late, there will be no mulled wine, no mince pies, and no turkey left. Also, for many of us, the evenings fill up quickly: concerts, receptions and drinks parties. We’d better get our own event in the diary early, before people have already committed to something else.
Amidst all this busyness, we risk forgetting what Christmas is about. In our anxiety to get everything just right, we forget that Jesus himself came at a time that was, if not unexpected, at least inconvenient. Mary and Joseph came too late to Bethlehem to find a proper place to sleep: there was no place for them in the inn. They were not prepared for the birth of their first child as was customary and desirable, by being married. Jesus came in God’s time, not ours.
However, Mary and Joseph were ready in a way that we are often not. They were ready to expect the unexpected; they were ready to live in God’s time, rather than their own. This requires a different type of preparation: learning to wait and to let go of our anxiety trying to ensure security.
Expecting the unexpected sounds harder than it is. It requires some, but not a lot, of effort. It does, however, require our attention, as we need to look beyond the obvious. Jesus was born in a stable, not a royal palace. The first people who were told about his birth were shepherds, not religious and political leaders.
So we too can find what Christmas is about in the unexpected corners of our lives, and the life of this Town. Maybe you can invite someone who would be sitting in the dark? Is there something you can share with those who don’t have much? As soon as we do that, look beyond the obvious, that is when we can expect to see what Christmas is about. And for that, we don’t have to wait!