From the Rectory
December 2006

ADVENT - These days, the commercial rush of Christmas begins at the end of the summer, usually as I go off for my summer holidays. Christmas cards appear in the shops, which is not a little disturbing. By the end of October, many shops are fully decorated with plastic holly, frosted windows, inflatable Father Christmases and worse. Bah! Humbug, I hear you say, what a Scrooge that Brian is. But that really is not the case. I love Christmas, but not until Christmas. You can either moan and groan about the commercialisation, and tacky, plastic, throwaway nature of Christmas today with its emphasis on money and 'things' or you can make a real and determined effort to restore in your own lives the real values of this most holy and delightful feast, starting with a proper Advent season. So I offer you here a few thoughts for Advent. You cannot have Easter without Good Friday, and likewise you cannot have Christmas without Advent.

Advent marks the four weeks before Christmas. It is traditionally a season of penitence and preparation before Christmas. The official liturgical colour is purple, a symbol of penitence. There was a time when it was forbidden to have a wedding during Advent, as with Lent, no longer the case today. The last Sunday befoe Advent used to be called 'Stir-up Sunday'- and still is by some people-[some even find it a useful reminder that it's time to make the Christmas puds]- from the first words in the Prayer Book collect "Stir up, we beseech thee, the wills of thy faithful people". In the Common Worship calendar, the Sunday is now a celebration of Christ the King, and the old Prayer Book collect has become the post-communion prayer. It is, however, still used at Morning and Evening Prayer. The third Sunday in Advent is 'Gaudete Sunday', from the Latin word for rejoice. On that day, everyone took a break from the penitential theme and pink vestments and altar-cloths were allowed in Church. Can you imagine me dressed all in pink? - Don't go there!

It's a great pity to start making preparations for Christmas before Advent has properly begun. The autumn season has so many feasts of its own. When Advent finally arrives at the end of November, there are just four weeks to go until Christmas, and this is just long enough to make good preparations for the great feast and to enjoy doing so rather than feel exhausted because it commenced so early and has gone on for far too long. In Christian families, Advent should be used creatively and taken seriously. It is a wonderful opportunity to hold back what is going on in the high street until you are ready. Prepare well and you really will enjoy the great feast day of Christmas.

O Simplicitas: By Madeline L 'Engle

An angel came to me
And I was unprepared
To be what God was using.
Mother I was to be.
A moment I despaired,
Thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God's Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
The birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
It was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
My cloak was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
The town was overflowing.

God's Word, a child so small,
Who still must learn to speak,
Lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood, strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
And moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd:
The stable set apart,
The sleepy cattle lowing;
And the incarnate Word
Resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
The folly of the Lord,
Wiser than all men's knowing.

Brian and Lys wish you all a Happy, Holy and Peace filled Christmas.