From the Rector - December 2018

Dear Friends,

Have you ever said or heard the words ‘are we there yet?‘ I know that I have and can think of numerous occasions when driving that I hear Sophia and Tilly utter these words, on repeat, from the back! We always seem to be in a hurry to get places and if there's a short cut on a route I am sure most of us would take it.

Follow The StarIn science fiction, we see creative solutions to the question ‘are we there yet?‘ Characters teleport from one place to another, they can jump forward or backwards in time, and I suspect that many of us would be tempted to use such methods if we could to avoid long journeys and satisfy our impatience. However, I believe that if we had the means to transport ourselves instantly from one place to another, we would significantly lose out on what those journeys could have entailed. Imagine arriving instantly at your destination of Lake Coniston having not travelled through the beautiful Lake District scenery. This is how I see Advent - a rich and significant journey which is so often ignored or omitted from our lives as we engage with the commercial belief that Christmas is already here.

I am writing this in November and the shops are already full of festive Christmas cheer. The irony is that while our shops and media begin Christmas early and end it on 25th December, in the Church, Christmas truly begins on 25th December. The Christmas season then continues into January with Epiphany and ends with the last feast of Christmas, Candlemas, on 2nd February (which is why, if you've ever wondered, our Christmas tree remains in the Rectory until then!). By this time the shops have long forgotten it and are stocked ready for Valentine's Day and Easter!

It seems to me that at best Advent is misunderstood and used only as a countdown to Christmas, or at worst is completely lost in the midst of festive shopping and parties.

So, what is Advent all about? Well it is, of course, partly to do with remembering Jesus‘ birth and because of where Advent is placed in the Church calendar, we can't help but anticipate remembering the Nativity. My children have Advent calendars and as they open the doors day by day they do indeed countdown until Christmas but this is not what is at the heart of Advent.

It is helpful to learn a little about the origin of the word Advent to understand it's meaning. The word comes from the Latin adventus which means ‘coming’. If we look back even further, the Greek word often translated to the Latin adventus is parousia. Although the Greek word parousia has a number of meanings, it is commonly the word used to refer to the second coming of Christ, his return in glory which is referenced and foretold throughout the Gospels. So the season of Advent can be thought of as a time of looking to the past as we remember Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and to the future in anticipation of his second coming.

For Christians this changes the way we engage with Advent, it shifts its focus from the past to the future, and in turn challenges us to look at how we live our lives in the present. Advent also marks the start of the new Church year, so while 1st January may seem the obvious date for New Year resolutions, Advent is also an opportunity to do this both individually and as a church.

My challenge is that this year we embrace Advent, make an effort to find out more about what this season means and what we can learn from it. Of course, we need to think about Christmas before the day — shopping, decorations, present lists, nativity rehearsals, cake making and so on — but despite the excitement and anticipation that Christmas brings, there is still room to experience the significance and richness of the Advent journey.

Advent also brings some excitement to our Benefice as we welcome our new Curate, Fr Kevin Martin. We hope you can join us at 10:30 am on Sunday 2nd December at St John’s Church, Charlton for a welcome Eucharist followed by yummy refreshments!