I wonder which Christmas traditions are part of your celebrations: decorating the tree on Christmas Eve, a large roast turkey, presents after lunch on Christmas Day, lots of wild parties in the run-up, drinking and eating too much, stressing about who will be where on the day itself, Christmas jumper days (I really must buy one this year!), pyjama days, Advent calendars or moaning that Christmas gets earlier every year.
I have to confess that I indulge in that final one most years. Back to school arrives, and it seems that Christmas is all over the shops as well. Does it matter? Perhaps not, although it does emphasise the way that Christmas for many is nothing more than a secular money-making exercise or a feast of thinking about what I want rather than how I can be generous to others.
Advent, apart from the calendars which many still seem to adore – me included, is often overshadowed. For the Church, it is a time of waiting, both for the coming of Christ as a baby at Christmas and also for his promised coming again.
Waiting can often be seen as dreary and tries our patience. It is one of the things that humans seem to find really hard, especially in this day and age where so many things are instant.
Waiting often sits alongside hopes for the future. Advent is firmly rooted in hope, looking to a time when there will be no more violence or war, selfishness or greed, injustice or poverty, sickness or death. Hope can give waiting meaning.
This Advent, while holding my hopes for my own future and that of the whole of creation, I want also to build hope for others. There are so many ways we can do this. But one I heard about last year really struck me. Perhaps you have come across it too.
It’s the Reverse Advent Calendar. The idea is that rather than opening a little cardboard door and finding either a picture or chocolate or gin or perfume or lipstick or any of the other goodies people now find hidden there, you give something away for each day of December until 24th. Food banks in particular have taken up this idea, and I intend to create my own reverse Advent calendar this year for one of the local ones. So each day I will set aside something for the food bank – tinned food, dried goods, sanitary products, tea, coffee, toiletries perhaps.
If that is too much to consider for you because shopping isn’t easy, how about setting aside a small amount of money on each day of Advent and giving it to a charity at the end.
And, if you struggle financially, acts of kindness cost nothing. Why not set yourself a task of doing something kind for someone each day – something you would not otherwise have done.
There are many ways we can bring hope to others during this season of Advent. As preparation for all that we are to receive at Christmas, most especially the gift of God himself, generosity prepares our hearts to recognise the true value of all that we have.
May you have a hope-filled Advent and a happy Christmas.
With best wishes Sarah