Judging from all the carefully cocooned Christmas trees walking past my window trailing gleeful children, I’d say a lot of people are getting their trees early this year. Any why not? In such a bleak year, when we’ve been confined in large part indoors, it feels appropriate to dress the house and to celebrate the start of the end of this dreadful saga.
We’ve been collecting ivy in the lane, and wrapping it round coat hangers to make wreaths for the doors; we’ve got the Christmas lego out; and our nativity set is largely intact, except that one of the kings has lost his head.
I imagine like me your box of decorations tells a story. Mine has some beautifully co-ordinated decorations from the days when I could contemplate a theme; now sabotaged by a chaos of beloved projects from playgroup and nursery and primary and Brownies, and the odd forgotten chocolate from last year.
One of the decorations I always used to leave in the bottom of the box was a glass bauble inscribed ‘Baby’s First Christmas’, because it’s not, anymore. But then I remembered that it is, every year, for the baby in the manger – that’s what we celebrate on the 25th, that Baby’s First Christmas. And I think Christmas stays magical for us because the baby is always about a fresh start, and hope for the future.
The 24-day countdown of Advent, whether we mark it with chocolates or pictures or a candle or good deeds, is about that growing sense that something is about to happen. And in a year such as this, when so much has felt hopeless, maybe this year we deserve to go large on expectation, now that vaccines have been developed and we have reasonable grounds for hope.
Given our shattered hopes of 2020, maybe this advent we could start allowing ourselves to look forward to 2021, and learn to dream again. That might feel quite hard at first, because this year has trained all of that out of us. But every door on the advent calendar is a surprise, and an invitation to be surprised, one door at a time. There are still a lot of doors to go until the world feels normal again, but perhaps in 2021 we might surprise ourselves.
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.