A Message from our Reader
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent.
Advent, for me, is a time full of contrasts.
On the natural side, I experience this time as dreadful, cold and rainy, a running down of nature’s machinery until the low point, the winter solstice, is reached. The days are getting shorter; the way it affects me most is that it is still dark outside when I get up, and I have to wind myself up to get out of bed and start my exercise routine in the dark. When we reach the 21st of December, it is good to know that we are then over the hump and things will only get better from then on, but it still takes months, maybe in March or so, to feel the beginning of the day is at a ‘proper’ time.
Luckily once I am done my exercises I can take a more constructive view of the world and adopt an optimistic and forward-looking attitude, as becomes a Christian.
The Christian side of Advent is wholly forward-looking, of course; it looks forward to the birth of our Saviour, and the wonderful stories set down in Luke’s gospel about the humble birth and the adoration of the baby Christ. Although we don’t have any factually reliable information about when Christ was born, it seems very natural to celebrate the birth right after the winter solstice –we feel things will only get better when the days are lengthening and we can look forward to nature’s rebirth in spring.
One element of the Christian Advent season that took me a while to get used to when I joined the Anglican church, as it is so completely absent in our society outside the church, is very clear when you look at the texts and sermons preached at this time. In Advent there is an emphasis, not only on Christ’s birth itself, but also on his second coming or, rather, on the events that we believe will come to pass then: the ‘four last things’: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.
You might be called rather a spoil-sport if you would introduce these awesome concepts in polite conversation about Christmas, because we would rather focus on the jolly time we’re going to have. But that would be very short-sighted, for sure. It would be like celebrating the winter solstice and then thinking that the winter would never come back! I must confess I still find it rather an effort to think about the four last things, and I think I am not the only one. The saints who have gone before us might say that we still have a long road ahead of us!
— Jan Huber
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