Tomorrow, millions of children (and adults) will be gleefully looking forward to opening the first window of their Advent calendars and enjoying the chocolate treat that awaits. Maybe you have a more extravagant calendar with candles, cheese, beer, skincare products or even jewelry awaiting you. Over recent years, the Advent calendar itself has become a significant gift in its own right and often continues right past Christmas into the New Year. I suspect a few of us recall Advent calendars that had no chocolate gift behind the door. Instead, each door revealed a picture depicting a scene of the nativity.
I doubt many know that Advent doesn’t start on December 1st but on the fourth Sunday before Christmas – which was yesterday. Advent Sunday was celebrated by Christians around the world and the first purple candle on the Advent weath was lit.
While this year, Christmas will be different for many and much quieter for most, the Christmas frenzy has already begun. I attended an event recently where the speaker was going through an exceeding long list of things we needed it do in the run up to Christmas. I was shattered just listening to it! Getting my Christmas play list sorted, wrapping presents, buying matching Christmas Day PJs for the family (sorry, no!), ordering the meat…the list went on and on and I’m sure most of us would also be broke if we had adhered to it. And yet, in a 20 minute talk, not once was the true meaning of Christmas mentioned. Not even a carol service…
The closest we got to this was a great conversation about making up ‘reverse advent calendars’, where you put a tin of food into a box every day and then give the box full of 24 items to a local food bank. It’s a lovely idea and I do encourage you to consider it. However, it did sadden me that this was the only suggestion that included people outside of our immediate friends and families. Christmas is a time for giving but we can be extremely selfish and unaware of others going through hardship at the same time.
While I am so grateful that I can attend services over the Christmas period, it goes without saying that church groups around the country are looking to do things a bit differently this year. The carol service might well be a carol concert and parents will miss the cancelled nativity plays. We are also aware that many people will be on their own and may feel lonely during this period.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, why not take the opportunity to slow down this Christmas, make new traditions, getting rid of those that you didn’t like and do something new instead to support others in need?
Here are a few suggestions that might help you get started:
- Support your local foodbank;
- Go for a socially distanced walk with someone on their own;
- Pack up a Christmas meal for someone on their own;
- Instead of posting your neighbours’ cards through the letterbox, knock on the door and have a quick chat. Check they’re OK;
- Organise some socially distanced street carol singing – perhaps with candles or torches.
I’m sure this list could go on and I would love to hear your suggestions of how to share the Joy of Christmas to your local community or others in need.