Four Sundays before Christmas Day the season of Advent begins and our thoughts turn to celebrating Christmas. Christmas is a time of joy and hope with, at the heart of the Christmas story, a homeless couple with a new baby. Over the coming weeks I hope to share with you some of the wonderful Moravian traditions and stories surrounding Christmas.
In the Cambridge dictionary Advent is defined as the beginning of an event or the arrival of a person. For Christians around the world, Advent heralds the coming of Christ into the world. To symbolise the birth of Christ, at the centre of our Christmas celebrations we have the nativity scene and the Advent wreath. Let us take a look at each of these.
The nativity scene, traditionally known as the Putz, can be found in homes and churches around the world. The scene may be displayed in many ways but its purpose is to remind us of the baby born in the manger; born in a manger because there was no room at the inn … the parents were temporarily homeless and so had to rely on the kindness of others. The star shone brightly over the manger, leading the shepherds and the wise men to the crib. The nativity story is played out each year by many children – churches and school halls packed to watch the tale unfold – hopefully the many tea-towels used do not unfold!
The making and using of an Advent wreath is a Christian custom that probably dates back to the Middle Ages. There are four candles around and one in the middle; each Sunday in Advent a new candle is lit during the service, as well as in many homes around the world. Each candle has a special meaning and the central one is only lit on Christmas Day.
Christmas is a wonderful celebration. A time for sharing and for looking forward. Certainly this year we need the hope and joy of Christmas in our lives.
As we celebrate in whatever way we can let us not forget the central story of Christmas – the homeless family dependent upon others. Throughout his life, Jesus often relied upon the kindness of strangers to meet his basic needs and offer him and his disciples hospitality. Sadly, this year has changed the lives of so many people. More people will be reliant upon the kindness of others, and many will be facing homelessness. As we move into this joyful time, let us enjoy ourselves and also remember those in need.
At Fulneck Church there is a long tradition of supporting St George’s Crypt. Let us ensure that, despite the challenges of 2020, we find our own ways of keeping up this support.
Next week, I plan to explore the Christmas star and all things bright and shiny associated with Christmas. You may even hear how I was thinking about getting a Christmas Star when one arrived in the post, sent from Germany by a dear friend.
As I re-read this, I am struck by how many Christmas carols we sing to tell the story. Hope you have the time to think of your favourites and listen to them over the coming weeks.
A Prayer for Advent
Son of Mary,
Son of God,
Here I am.
It is enough.