Advent Sunday 2013 – Early or Late?

Happy new (liturgical!) year!

Today is the first day of the Advent Book Club. And we’re reading Maggi Dawn’s Beginnings and Endings [and what happens in between]. Maggi has kindly shared day 1 here for those of you who haven’t got a copy of the book.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Maggi’s thoughts – and my thoughts thereon

Maggi starts by pondering just how early Christmas starts these days – often way before December. Certainly the shops have started as early as ever. The Christmas Market moved into St Albans on Thursday – and in response our outdoor crib by the Lady Chapel went up too. For the last week I’ve walked past the bar beneath one of the offices on our London campus and seen gatherings of bepaperhatted happy folk, pulling crackers and eating turkey.

Yet, as Maggi notes, and several friends have reminded me, anticipating Christmas isn’t fun if you don’t feel like celebrating this year – whilst all around you festive spirit abounds. Somehow the somber bits of Advent could just do with continuing a little (a lot?) longer until, perhaps, the mood of celebration returns.

Those of you who are better theologians than me will appreciate Maggi’s observation that the tenses in psalm 27 change throughout – sometimes thanking God for what they have already; sometimes urgently petitioning for a change in fortunes.

I too can remember Advent as both a time of joy – Ben’s first Christmas; our first married Christmas having barely returned from honeymoon – and sadness – wondering if my Granny would live till I got home from university in mid-December; battling an inexplicable stomach disorder (thankfully now resolved). But most of all, I remember waiting… waiting for Christmas to come so I could celebrate for the first time with my son, with my wife… waiting for Christmas with every ring of the phone wondering if it would be bad news from Granny’s doctor or my own.

But in recent years – Advent has become a time of waiting. Sometimes fast; sometimes slow; always waiting and hoping; and always hopeful, if not confident, in asking, as the psalmist does:

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life

It may be Christmas morning. It may be unexpectedly at any point in the year. But blessings will be upon us from on high.

Maranatha – come, Lord Jesus.

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