Why begin at the end?
Advent comes at the end of the calendar year and yet it begins the church year.
I always find myself feeling a little bit more sober as it approaches.
It’s almost as if I need a season to prepare for Advent, preparing as it is itself, for Christmas…a sort of pre-Advent Advent…
It’s an odd time, roughly coinciding as it does in the Church, with everyone asking you for dates for Christmas events, and in the world, with nightly TV Christmas adverts.
It’s like that memory I have of our first Christmas with a toddler. You know how wonderful it is when you’ve got all the presents finally wrapped and they’re under the tree and all ready for the magic of Christmas morning.
The house waits.
Our toddler came down next morning early (we weren’t entirely used to what toddlers got up to) and slightly before anyone else was ready, he began to ‘open’ his presents. But he wasn’t really interested in what was inside.
All he really wanted to do was rip the paper off. Ripped paper sounds so amazing when you’re not quite two.
He didn’t understand that each parcel lovingly placed had been imagined, purchased, wrapped and delivered, with a label on saying who gave it.
After the wrapping paper had come off four parcels in quick succession, the contents strewed about the room randomly, there were cries of WAIT, WAIT, WAIT. Who gave that one? Who sent the cuddly toy/car/musical instrument/book of stories?
No one knew because there’d been no wait, no consideration, no awareness. Because toddlers can’t do that yet.
Comes Advent soon.
In the Church it causes us to start again, take stock and spend time with difficult texts.
The themes of Patriarchs, Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary – the all encompassing sweep of Scripture – even before we get to Jesus born in the night far from home.
Preachers are challenged to speak of four things: heaven and hell; death and judgment. I’ve only ever met one who managed it.
Difficult themes when turkey dinners, carol concert rehearsals and Black Friday assail you morning, noon and night.
WAIT, WAIT, WAIT.
Comes Advent to stop us in our tracks, with purple and dark blue hangings, candles, the light preparing the way for what is to come, and not just the coming of the baby but the coming of the King at the end of all things.
And as all toddlers eventually discover, though it’s a hard lesson – all things come to those who wait.