Vicar's Musings for the Third Sunday in Advent
14 December, 2014
How is your Advent going? Mine is turning out to be rather too frenetic. At the start of Advent I committed to a pattern of daily mass and offices, regular meditation, and making extra time for reading and writing during the week. My intent was to guard against the busyness of this time of year, and to keep the Advent solemnities in the forefront of my mind, preparing prayerfully for the arrival of the Christ-child. I have to confess I have failed. Before Mass on Wednesday I shared my sense of devotional failure with an older and particularly calm and prayerful parishioner. "Of course, you don't get caught up in the pre-Christmas rush" I said. She came back, quick as a flash, "I wish!"
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we are observing a mid-winter European feast-day in the middle of summer. Christmas is designed to lift the spirits of Christians amidst the gathering darkness, the approaching cold and gloom of winter. Advent is a time when the leaves are falling, the days are shortening, and there might even be an early sprinkling of snow. Europeans may take a week or two of holiday to keep them going through the long winter. Here in Australia, of course, Christmas falls in the middle of the long hot summer. For many of us it is the cut-off point before the long-awaited summer vacation, and so there is immense pressure for all the jobs at work to be finished and all the 2015 planning to be signed off, not to mention the pressure of festive preparations: gifts for loved ones, delicious food, end-of-year functions and so on. It is almost impossible to avoid getting caught up in the spiral of intense activity and urgency.
So, I have decided to stop — for the time being at least! I have decided to spiritually re-boot. Don't worry, church will still happen and the jobs around the parish will get done, but I have decided to intentionally reconnect with the Advent spirit, and disconnect (for the time being at least) from the frantic spirit of the shopping-mall Aussie Christmas. I have been helped in my reconnection by a beautiful prayer by Sister Ruth SLG. She writes: "I pause upon the brink of the unknown; I am neither there nor here. On this side, as in a dream, men move, doing the phantom things we do on earth; on that side, through the silence, something stirs, a wave of living surges and is gone .... To the known I cannot return, for I have passed where knowledge is not; yet the unknown I cannot touch, save as a pebble the sea which covers it. O God, unknown to me, life to my death, see how, forgetting, thou rememberest me; can I forget, and so remember thee?" (The Oxford Book of Prayer, Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 148).
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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