"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Advent 2010

This last Sunday was Advent Sunday, and we celebrated in our church by having an evening Advent service of music, carols, prayer and meditation.

During the Taize style meditation in the middle of the service I lit three candles in turn, symbolic of the light of Christ, extinguished them as we were reminded of the darkness of the world, and finally lit them all again to shine for the remainder of the service, as we sang "Longing for light, we wait in darkness.... " the wonderful hymn by Bernadette Farrell with the refrain:

Christ be our light!
Shine in our hearts
Shine through the darkness
Christ, be our light
Shine in your church
gathered today."

Much earlier in the day, in the morning Eucharist, we lit the first of our advent Candles. This first candle is traditionally the Candle of Hope. By lighting this we celebrate the hope we have in Jesus Christ. The light of the candle represents that hope, which is like light shining in a dark place.

At that same service, our nativity set models of Mary and Joseph began their journey around the parish. They set off in procession from the High Altar, to where they will return on Christmas Eve, ready for receiving the baby Jesus into their, and our, lives. This is our own version of the lovely Mexican and Latin American tradition of Posada (spanish for lodging or accommodation.) There the people dress up as Mary and Joseph, Mary often being led on a donkey, as they go from house to house asking for accommodation. We are asked to say a prayer as we take our precious cargo (heaven help any one who drops and breaks one - please may it not be me!!) to the next house: "As you welcome these crib figures into your home today, may you welcome the Lord Jesus into your hearts this Christmas."

I love Christmas. At least I love all the church services, the celebration of our Lord's Birth, the children's nativity services when we help them build up the crib through readings and songs as they process around the church with all the individual characters and place them in the crib itself. We then have the Midnight Mass when the church is always full to bursting with 100s of people. I am then up at the crack of dawn - indeed before dawn (!) for serving duties once again at the early morning and family Eucharists.

It is a great privilege and joy to me to be one or other of the servers/acolyte/crucifer/verger/thurifer ( I wear many hats!!) at all these services.

I love all of that. And I'm not a total killjoy. Of course it is fun to see the decorations in the high streets, and in and around the houses. But what I absolutely loath is the commercialism of the Festival. The spending-mad masses who shop to drop as if they will starve if the supermarket closes for one day!! I loathe the politically correct street decorations and postage stamps, the way the media dumbs down the Christian elements of the celebrations as if these do not exist when they certainly do! And there is a fear, they say, of offending non Christians - but no one seems to care very much about Christians being offended when the "ball is on the other foot."

Just before Christmas last year I retreated to Madeira for a week - an island where they profess their faith more openly, and where the taxi driver did not think it strange to take his fare to the Anglican church in Funchal on the Sunday - he would be going to his own church later that day.

The photo above was of a nativity display in a shop window - a shop seemingly devoted to Christian artefacts in Funchal. The street decorations are a little different from ours!

This year I don't think I'll be lucky enough to get away from the UK razzmatazz. But I shall certainly enjoy the festival itself for what it is, first and foremost, a Christian celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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