An Advent like no other

By The Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Jane Hedges - 29 November 2020
Norwich Cathedral

There is a poem by John Betjeman entitled Advent 1955. I’ve no idea why it’s dated with that particular year as some of the things it describes could apply to any year as we keep Advent and prepare for Christmas.

It talks about the weather, “The Advent wind begins to stir with sea-like sounds in our Scotch fir, it’s dark at breakfast, dark at tea …”

It describes some of the things we do to prepare for Christmas, “I remember last year I sent out twenty yards, laid end to end, of Christmas cards …”

It concludes, “The time draws near the birth of Christ, a present that cannot be priced, given two thousand years ago. Yet if God had not given so he still would be a distant stranger and not the Baby in the manger.”

Advent 2020 will be an Advent like no other inasmuch as we enter it in lockdown in the midst of a global pandemic. Advent is the season of the Christian year traditionally associated with waiting – watching and waiting for the birth of Christ.

Waiting will have an added dimension to it this year as we wait to see what we will be allowed to do when Christmas comes. Will we be allowed to sing Carols? Will we be allowed to meet up with our families and friends? Will we be allowed to travel in order to take a holiday?

We are all living with uncertainty and this can be extremely uncomfortable and very unsettling. However, we might turn this round and see this time of waiting as presenting us with a special gift. Often, when we’ve been able to plan for a significant event in detail, once we actually reach the day itself we are disappointed because it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. If, on the other hand we can’t plan in this way, but have to simply wait to see what happens, we might find that we get a pleasant surprise and then appreciate more deeply the experience itself.

So, if you are feeling unsettled this Advent, this is no bad thing – God wants to unsettle us and challenge us to think about the deeper meaning of life and the wonderful gift he gives us at Christmas. In unsettling us though he also offers us the absolute certainty of his love – love given in the baby in a manger.

Picture: Bill Smith

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