‘We have tested and tasted too much, lover –
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent – darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use’
From ‘Advent’ by Patrick Kavanagh
The colour worn at Advent and Lent is the same. Purple or violet. For me, whilst I love the colour and I see it as a rich and royal hue, it has its penitential note. Of course Lent is much more full of penance and fasting, yet as Kavanagh hints, Advent has also got the shades of abstinence. If the chink is too wide, if the feast is too large, and too often, we quickly get overload. It’s too much. Excess kills our appreciation and enjoyment. To have too ready, and too available knowledge, kills off wonder. Wonder is the great casualty of our time. We are saturated with knowledge. Delay used to sharpen our wonder. Now there is no delay. Everything is instant. Everything is immediate. All knowledge is now literally at our fingertips. There was a great joy in anticipation. There was a great joy in savouring. Anticipation and Savouring do not get much of a look in now. We are in too much of a hurry. We have no time. This is the age of the instant. Wonder and its cousin, Awe, are all but stifled. Wonder and Awe are gifts of the Holy Spirit and when these are lost the Spirit is throttled. Of course the Holy Spirit survives and indeed thrives because it is part of the Triune God.
There is much debate about the waiting that we engage in Advent. It is certainly not a passive twiddling of the thumbs waiting. It is meant to be a purposeful creative period of preparation. Despite the readings recently that speak clearly of Christ’s return and indeed in Matthews gospel the Final Judgement, we need to remember that God’s judgment is merciful. We do not in fact get what we deserve in accordance with our sins but rather his clemency. The Lord does not want our Advent waiting to be characterised by fear and trembling. Yes we are clearly called to be good to one another, especially those who have little or nothing. Having said this our Advent waiting is to be joyful expectation. We are waiting for the Lord Jesus who loves us.
We will give time to turkey and tree, to pudding and pie, and Christmas may come and go in the great flurry that is the custom but what will remain? Leftovers and Hangovers? Will the party have become a brawl? Will we be paying off Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day? Is it possible that we can make it different this year? Imagine if we could put our hand on heart and on the 27/28 December say we did not hurt each other, there are no bridges burning, we enjoyed ourselves, we reminded ourselves of what, and more importantly who, matters and more than all this we glimpsed Jesus. To make Christmas that little bit different this year depends on the plans and decisions we make now in Advent by way of preparation.
Let’s park the fear and embrace a freedom to enjoy. Let’s not allow the glitz and razzmatazz to take over. Let’s enjoy ourselves. Let’s remember the baby born in the feeding box for animals, the Saviour of the World. Let’s be instruments of his peace. Let me be the one who plans for joy. Let me be the one who recognises the trouble spots and steers things away from them. Let me be the one who shows a bit of courage and a little leadership reminding ourselves that it is having our loved ones around us that is the real richness of the season. There is no greater present than the Presence of Jesus himself.