Advent Sunday this weekend marked the official start of preparations for Christmas. Maybe you’ve got an advent calendar in your house, with chocolates behind the doors; or these days, toys, or gin, or gourmet treats for the dog. Everyone with children in their house knows how important this countdown is, and that the waiting can be very hard work: the calendars help to pace the journey, and to contain the frustration, as presents arrive in the post but can’t be opened yet.
Perhaps it’s a bit of a lost art, waiting and being patient, now that we can order almost anything we might possibly want online, and have it delivered the very next day. One of the things you can’t rush, though, is a pregnancy. And 9 months is a long time to wait. When Mary reached 24 days away from giving birth to Jesus, she’d already had to be very patient indeed. In all the waiting, I imagine Mary was excited, but also pretty anxious about what was to come. And for lots of reasons people can have mixed feelings about Christmas, particularly those who’ll be facing it alone for the first time this year, having just lost someone dear to them. Many people won’t be waiting in anticipation, but in trepidation; and some may just be waiting more generally, for a day when it might not hurt so much any more.
I was at a funeral this weekend, for a friend who was cruelly taken by cancer long before his time. One of the readings he’d chosen for his funeral was from the letter of St Paul to the Romans , which says: “We rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.”
Advent means ‘arrival’, and it promises that those who hope will not be disappointed, even in the midst of the darkness of winter and in the darkest of times. The day will come. But until then, we must keep opening each door in front of us, every day, and be patient for a bit longer. It feels true, that the more we endure, the stronger we become, but it can be tough: so for now, advent reminds us that we just need to take one day at a time.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.