What are these four weeks before Christmas really about? And what is this ‘Advent’ thing anyway? Our shopping centres are filled with lights, christmas trees, reindeers and Fr Christmases! Is this ‘Advent’? The world’s advent is about presents, parties, gadgets and loads of food and drink!
The word Advent means ‘Preparing for what is coming!’ The Christian Advent is all about looking into the future. It is about what kind of world do we really want to live in … what kind of world do we want to hand on to our children and our children’s children. It is about looking beyond our immediate wants and desires. We can so easily get sucked into thinking about ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘what I want’ – Advent calls us, in the words of the book of Genesis in the Bible, to become ‘people with far-seeing eyes’. Advent calls us to ‘wake up’ to what is really happening in the world around us. That is why such a large part of the Bible Christians and Jews share records the words of the Prophets – and in the Church’s worship during these four weeks of Advent we listen to them a lot. These prophets of old challenge us to reflect upon the quality of our lives, our honesty and integrity, to reflect upon the world around us, whether there is really justice and hope for the poor. They challenge us to change today so as to build for tomorrow a different, more united and just world – a world where the poor do not just get the left over scraps of grudging charity: to build a world of greater humanity for all the children of the earth.
But there are also Prophets today that challenge us – last Monday’s news was filled with two very different people. Michelle Obama speaking to people young and old to believe they can be more! To aspire (and work towards) their own inner greatness, to ‘wake up’ to all each one of us can ‘become’. And then an old man, 92 years old, David Attenborough, making the nations and leaders listen to ‘the cries of the earth’. He challenged us – all of us – to ‘wake up’ to the harm we are doing to our fragile and beautiful planet;
to ‘wake up’ to the sheer urgency of changing the way we live so that future generations will have a world worth living in; to ‘wake up’ to our responsibility
for the natural world around, the species we are driving to extinction, the oceans we are polluting; to ‘wake up’ to the catastrophic impact of global warming and climate change on future generations and in particular on the most impoverished people in the world – those who cannot protect themselves in the way we in the rich world perhaps can.
Will we listen to these prophets?
So Advent is not just about Christmassy ‘jingles’, flashing lights and noisy shopping centres and supermarkets! Advent is about the future you and I can – indeed must – make for ourselves and all those who follow after us – that we must make for the poorest of the earth. If Christmas is about anything – celebrating as we do the birth of this Child we call Jesus or ‘Issa’ – it is about making our world so much more human, struggling for peace, developing and using our gifts and potential to make a world where all the Earth’s children can live in freedom and hope, delighting in our beautiful and bountiful planet.
So everyone – have a courageous Advent and loving Christmas!