A long Advent…
It is strange (and wonderful) to have reached the 3rd Sunday of Advent by 11th December. With Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year (the favourite arrangement of all the clergy I know!) we are treated to four weeks of this great season. The weeks are filled with hope and expectation, but Advent is also a penitential season when we are never far from the shadows of cataclysmic prophecy and the deeper exhortation to prepare, not just for Christmas, but for the return of Christ – however and whenever that might happen.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week I was in London for a series of meetings, mainly concerning the role I will play in the life of the Methodist Church next year. As I walked (almost ran) to Euston station to catch my train home on Tuesday my mind was overflowing with thoughts, ideas, suggestions, possibilities, restrictions… I sank into my seat and suddenly realised how thankful I was for the long journey home. 270 minutes to think, reflect, read through my equally overflowing notebook, ponder some of the suggestions, dismiss some of my crazier ideas… I think the word is “process”. The journey was absolutely ordinary, and yet the journey was special – just what I needed. I arrived home late that night with more energy than when I left London!
Some years ago Martyn Atkins, then General Secretary of the Methodist Church, contributed a prayer to the Methodist Prayer Handbook which was enormously helpful to me at that particular time and which I have thought of many times since. I can’t recall the exact words, but it began by thanking God that sometimes we are led not along the shortest and quickest route, but by a longer path, for there is the potential to learn so much more from long journeys.
So, with two full weeks still to go before Christmas Day I don’t want to lose sight of the Advent journey. Yes, I have made a few mince pies, yes, I have done some Christmas shopping, yes, I have even put up a few decorations, but amidst that I continue to wear purple and to use purple wherever I can around the house to remind me that it is still Advent. I continue to read and ponder my Advent books (re-using, amongst other things, Janet Morley’s brilliant collection of poems for the season this year, “Haphazard by Starlight“). And I continue to light my candle – still a long way to go before that little flame will be absorbed into the radiance of the incarnation.
And every day I tie little purple ribbons to my Advent “Clootie Tree” and invite callers to the house to do the same. It is an old Celtic tradition, probably pagan in origin, but, for me, a reminder to pray during Advent for those in need of the healing water of the Spirit each day. Jill