Tag Archives: advent

Our first Christmas

Several times over the last couple of weeks I’ve said to myself, ‘I must blog that’ but somehow never quite got around to it. Apparently life is quite busy at the moment. So, even if this isn’t a full on update on everything from the last month(s) that I’ve been away, I thought I had to start somewhere.

A lot of the business the last few weeks seems to have been Christmas related. When you have two families to buy for, who are further away and not so prompt with their requests, you have to start planning early. And then there’s the problem of trying to find something for each other (easier said than done!) and manage to shop separately so there’s some element of surprise. We ended up going our separate ways around department stores, and Chris doing some secretive shopping after work. And thats before we even get around to wrapping or writing Christmas cards!

Christmas this year is feeling very different than it has done before, for many reasons, but due mainly, I think, to the fact of us living together now. Last year was the first year we were together at Christmas, but we were also many hundreds of miles away in the African sun, so it was anything but a ‘normal’ Christmas. This year, we’re going to my parents, then to Chris’, with all the usual Christmas stuff, but together. And there’s the little things, like putting up our joint Christmas cards in our flat, rather than having to divide them between us like we did last year! Yesterday we bought our first Christmas tree! Not a big deal in some ways (Chris helpfully pointed out that in commitment terms it’s not really that permanent..) but in others, it feels like a milestone, that this place we live, while not being what we would like, is home, and more importantly, its ours. One slight issue is that we might have got a wee bit carried away with the size of tree, and it currently appears to be swallowing a bookcase, part of the coffee table and obscuring the TV.. hoorah for Christmas!

The other change to Christmas this year has been thinking about Advent from the point of view of a preacher, and challenging myself to see it differently. There are many aspects of Advent I find particularly meaningful and inspirational, but I can’t preach about these every year! Making myself think about new perspectives on familiar themes is one of the interesting and enjoyable aspects of Local Preaching, and Advent is a season so rich with potential that the whole process is quite exciting. The service I’m working on is this Sunday coming, Advent 3. I might share some thoughts with you once I’ve got them in place.

Watch and wait

This Sunday marks the beginning of advent, in the church calendar even if not according to my advent calendar (I have to wait till tomorrow for the first chocolate :()

Its a time of preparation, of waiting for the coming of Jesus and making ready for his arrival. The gospel writers tell us to keep watch so that he ‘will not find you sleeping’. And at the end of his life, Jesus himself repeats the message, talking then not about his birth but about his coming in glory at the end of the age. What some refer to as the second coming. But what does this really mean for us?

Jesus tells us to prepare for the time when ‘heaven and earth will pass away’ and a new world will be born- the kingdom of God, in which he will rule in glory. Looking at it this way, are we really to sit back and simply wait and watch? Or will we be, as Jesus calls us to be, the founders of his kingdom on earth, here, today?

If we take on this responsibility, we begin to be able to approach the waiting of advent very differently. We are able to see the preparations as not just getting ready for Christmas and the birth of Christ, but being ready for the coming of his kingdom. And more than that, the kingdom becomes not something which is far off and yet to arrive, but something which is here in the present, which we ourselves are involved in bringing about.

Haircuts and Christmas cards

I’ve been wondering, how does one go about locating a non-scary type of hairdresser in a town one doesn’t know?

The sort where I won’t go in thinking ‘this is a big mistake’ and come out still not being sure. Where I won’t feel out of place for not already having perfect hair and not really having an answer when they ask how I usually style it other than ‘erm, I wash it and let it dry?’

Working in a more or less totally male office has its downside in this kind of dilemma. I know a few people through church, but unless I’m looking for a perm and a blue rinse they might not be able to help.

Like I said, just wondering. In other news, this week I have been writing a sermon and some Christmas cards. Not together, and not with the same material. Neither intended audiences would thank me for that! But its a bit like it might be Christmas soon. I’m preaching on Advent Sunday, so there really is no escape from it now. And on Saturday last week, we heard Christmas music on in a shop for the first time. At least they waited till November.

A time of preparation

At this time of year, there’s always someone moaning about Christmas being taken over as a commercial event, more to do with how many presents you can buy than the reason you buy them. And not only that, it seems to start earlier and earlier each year, the decorations go up sooner. Though the point of buying a real christmas tree at the start of december escapes me..

So amid all this preparation, the church sits smugly saying we’ve got our own separate season of preparation, untainted by all this commercial rubbish. Hmm. But is it separate? Or do we immediately switch to Christmas mode at the beginnng of December. No sooner is it advent than we’re planning and preparing carol services, rehearsing nativity plays, ordering traidcraft Christmas cards and singing hymns which talk about christmas day.

All this talk of preparation, and the natural tendancy to think about new beginnings around the end of the year, has got me thinking. Dangerous I know. I recently made a big decision, took a step into the unknown, and went to the preachers meeting to ask for a note to preach. To the non methodists out there, this is the first step on beginning the Local Preachers training course, which is the way lay preachers are trained in methodism. The course is varied, challenging (for which read very difficult and hardgoing at times) and stretches over a number of years. My excuse for about the last year is that my future is too uncertain. But I realised thats all it was, an excuse, so I’m going ahead anyway. I’m excited, confused, unsure and downright terrified, probably in equal measure. But who said these things are meant to be easy?

So this advent, I hope I’ll be able to separate this period of preparation from the build up to the day itself. And I hope I’ll be able to prepare myself for this most important of responsibilities, for which I don’t think I’ll ever be completely ready, and I trust I will be given the strength I need. With my faults and failings, my doubts and fears, I am ready to try. Here I am, send me.