So, Advent. Every year for six years Catherine and I have been running our Preparing for Advent event, and this year we talked about the things I've put on here for Ang's wonderful Pausing for Advent blogfest. And I'll tell you what our Preparing for Advent has done for me. Gradually. Overwhelmingly.
It has taken away Christmas! Not put the Christ back into Christmas so much as make the whole time a nonsense. A very nice nonsense, mind you. A glittering, funny, food-soaked few days. But to focus so much effort on so few days is now something I do because that's what my family wants. It's either about Jesus or it's not. If it is about Jesus, then it's a spiritual time, and Advent has become a very spiritual journey. If it's not about Jesus, then my next-door neighbour is right and Christmas has lost all its meaning and no amount of shortbread or snow cake will give it sense.
Last Sunday was our annual Mince Pies and Mulled Stuff open house. I
spent all day Saturday baking. Yes, I know that if I was organised the
baking would all be done, but you know me well enough now to know that
this is fraise. So, I spend all day baking, and then all Sunday
afternoon we have a house full of lovely loved and loving friends, new
and old. And at the end I sat down on the stool in the kitchen and looked at all the empty plates and cups.
Then I looked in the drained-dry mull pot. It was rich in everything. Colour, scent, flavour, conversations had, laughter shared. I think that Christmas is for me now the juicy remains from four weeks of listening, searching, remembering. Advent is the thing I need. The mulling pot is where I want to be! Like Mary pondering words in her heart, I want to be mulling darkening skies and bare trees and silent nights. I don't want to focus all my attention on one or two or three days (if you count a Christmas Eve brunch) and then for all it all to be over in a bin load of wrapping paper and envelopes. I want what's left over to be rich: drained dry of expectation and soaked in the glory of God. To paraphrase Scrooge himself, "I will honour Advent in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."