Saturday, 3 December 2016

A is for Advent by Clare Weiner (aka Mari Howard)

A is for Advent ... 

Advent is a time of waiting

The larger department stores, from John Lewis to Primark, to Marks & Spencers, are decked with snowy icons of winter, and stuffed with garments depicting Christmas. Or rather, depicting the life of extreme Northern lands – reindeer, snowflakes, Father Christmas/Santa Claus, along with holly and robins. (Have you noticed how many pjs, dressing gowns, and fluffy slippers are crowded into the shops, making us think of  cosy evenings with hot chocolate by the fire, and a good book?) The councils have hung snowflakes along the high street, ready to light up in the winter twilight, and added their very big Christmas tree (or even trees).

Advent is a time of waiting…

Advent calendars, with a chocolate each day of December until the 25th are a form of waiting. A sweet thing each day to remind us of, (or to anticipate), the great sweetness of Christmas and the pile of presents. Or the baby who is the greatest of presents.

Advent is a time of waiting…

Advent Wreath: four red candles, and you can just glimpse the white one in the centre
John the Baptist is our guide for the wait. That’s why he gets one of the candles in the Advent wreath. His message is prepare, be ready, and repent … The others are for all God’s people, for the prophets, and for Mary. The white, central candle represents Jesus, and when he arrives… we celebrate.

Advent is relevant today …

Britain voted for Brexit. North America for Donald Trump. In both countries the underlying reason looks (according to many commentators) to relate to the fears and worries of the less advantaged in our populations. Fears of poverty, unemployment, and generally of being ignored and not having their needs met. Fear of other people: terrorists, immigrants, anyone different, anyone who might make the slices of pie smaller for each one of us.

This gave me a thought: our world now is not unlike like the society which Jesus was born into. He was born into an ordinary working family, and even became for a while a refugee.  There was plenty of poverty, disabled people were marginalised, as were various other ‘unacceptable’ groups. Despite God’s laws about strangers, foreigners weren’t very welcome: think of the Samaritan or the Syro-Phoenician woman, or the Centurian. They were all ‘not God’s people’, they were Gentiles. There was discontent, suffering, and people looking around for an answer, someone to lead them, someone they could trust.

Advent is a time of waiting... Wait until the baby grows up.

Christmas has become more of a winter festival. About reindeer, glitter, and presents. But it’s really about this – about justice, mercy, compassion, and about integrity and even about inclusion. It’s about the birth of the person who preached the way to overcome the problems in ourselves and in the society we make. The things which underly the problems. Someone who listened. Who stood up to ‘the system’ until it killed him. And who overcame even that.

Advent is a time of waiting: let’s prepare the way of the Lord.

(Disclaimer: this is not a political post ... it is about seeing Advent and Christmas through the eyes of faith. Recent events are used as examples.)

Clare Weiner writes contemporary fiction as Mari Howard, and is inspired by the interaction (or not) by the interactions of faith and society.