Advent starts this year (officially) on Sunday December 3rd - though my Advent calendar will be on day 3 by then. We try to keep Advent (from the Latin and Old English - Adventus meaning coming) without too much of The Creeping Christmas. This is getting increasing harder but we try to remember Advent as Advent. This is important because at no other time of the year do we practise those feelings of ‘waiting with rising expectation for something good to happen’ or ‘waiting to be wowed’.
If we are not careful, we start thinking ‘Jesus will come - yah, yah. Boring.’ And the trouble with getting older is that the cynicism of ‘what’s it worth waiting for anyway; Christmas is just another day.’ becomes like an invasive weed. And this attitude then runs into the rest of our faith. ‘Jesus will answer this prayer? Yah, yah! That will so not happen.’
The prayer of Advent is ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22) and we try to centre ourselves that our Lord will come and the good will happen. We will wait with expectant anticipation.
We tell children God always answers prayer. However, the answer might be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. I think we can cope with those answers. The answer we (OK, I) find difficult is ‘Wait’. If this is the answer because nothing is happening, and we do have to wait, we should wait with ‘eager expectancy’. And this takes practice, so we do this practising in Advent.
Children have got this eager expectancy off to a T. ‘Nanna, let’s play Christmas and I come down stairs to open my presents.’ And that was in October! Poor Emily has a long wait. But she’s waiting with excitement. That Christmas will come. And there will be good things.
‘Our Lord, come’ is the Advent prayer. Where would you like our Lord to come? For you, where might you need our Lord to come so good things will happen? To establish peace or forgiveness (even if it’s only to forgive ourselves) or employment or an answer to an intractable problem?
Just as we wait with eager expectation for the coming of a Saviour and Jesus was born. So, we practise that waiting. Why do we have to wait? Why are we waiting, why are we waiting, why are we waiting, oh why, why, why? So the song goes. Our Lord, come! And this is the deal. Our Lord will come. Our prayers will be answered. And we wait with expectant anticipation.
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool.