Rector's Letter - December 2017

As a child I was never terribly good at waiting for things. It seemed a hard lesson to learn. At the start of Advent, I would receive my advent calendar and begin that wonderful countdown to Christmas Day, when the big double doors would open on the stable scene. But it was very hard not to peek at it beforehand. Opening one little door or window in the advent calendar each day was looked forward to with great eagerness. I do remember having to work quite hard to resist not opening them all up too soon!

Waiting is often good for us, even if we’re not terribly fond of doing it! When our day is so planned there aren’t any spare moments, or when we are rushing from one activity or appointment to another, we can soon find ourselves frustrated by the act of waiting, rather than being thankful we have a few minutes of quiet time to pause. I find assistants in shops constantly apologise for keeping me waiting, even if I have been next in line, and hardly had to wait at all. I have started to wonder whether in fact there isn’t a way of trying to embrace those times of waiting and view them differently – not as a useless waste of precious time, but as a resource, an opportunity. If each time I was kept waiting, I took it as a welcome opportunity to say a prayer, pause and be still and reflective in the moment, I wonder how waiting would feel then? I think that is a challenge I will set myself this Advent, to find ‘the meaning is in the waiting’, as the poet RS Thomas once reflected about prayer in his wonderful poem called ‘Kneeling’.

We can be in such a rush to get to Christmas itself, we don’t take much notice of the season of Advent. But it is an important time of preparation. Just as we get the house ready, buy the Christmas tree, write the cards and start our Christmas shopping, it is important to take some time to prepare ourselves.

Advent is a season of reflection. At this start of the Church’s New Year, we think about and anticipate the coming of Christ as a baby to this earth, and what it means for God to be with us. ‘God with us’ is what the word ‘Emanuel’ means in our Christmas carols. It is also the name of this year’s Church of England’s national focus on a special Advent series of reflections. You can read more about this elsewhere in this magazine, but we have a limited supply of some small booklets to give to those who ask, who would like to spend a little time each week of Advent reflecting on what it means for God to live in our midst, and to use this advent time of waiting, of expectation of God’s coming, to prepare our hearts for Christmas, and not just our homes. Do ask, if you would like a copy.

So may I wish you stillness in the busyness this Advent, time to reflect with wonder and anticipation, and when it finally comes, a very happy Christmas.

With best wishes,