This morning I as looked out across my garden it seemed that winter had arrived, bare branches reached skywards where only a few months ago there were flowers and green shrubs. Now the leaves have fallen, and the bare branches of many of the shrubs have been pruned back.The scene in monochrome, even the vegetable beds that Tim has been working on so hard are waiting for the new season, the soil has been dug and the beds prepared but they are bare, open to the winter rains and frosts...
Yesterday I re-potted a couple of my orchids, even these indoor plants have entered into a time of waiting, their stalks have been pruned back, their colourful exotic flowers are gone for this year, and I have moved them to a place where they will receive just the right amount of warmth and light for the waiting time....
There seems to be little life in the garden, and the orchids look like dead sticks, but all is not what it seems, new life is simply waiting to burst forth when the time is right, but for now this bit of creation has entered into the waiting time.
In contrast to the quiet and stillness of my garden are the local shops where even in the village Christmas has arrived with full force, adverts in the local Co-op tempt us not to wait until Christmas Day to begin feasting, while in a neighbouring village the lights have been on for weeks now. If I turn on the television I am bombarded with adverts, the radio offers the same constant feed of consumerism, preparation is all about consumption.
No wonder we are weary, we have lost the ability to truly rest, and have forsaken the wonder of waiting, replacing anticipation with headlong rush of activity adding stress to a season that sends bank accounts and relationships spiraling into disaster. How tragic that parents are judged not by the love, care and concern that they have for their children but by the size of the parcel they are able to provide. I speak to mothers who sacrifice bedtime stories and cuddles for part-time jobs simply in order to buy that latest toy for a child whose head has been filled desire for a toy that has been advertised solidly from September onwards. I speak to families stressed out by not being able to buy the approval of relatives and friends. I hear it from my own children as living on student loans they struggle to resist the perils of the season!
I want to stand in the centre of our towns and shopping centres with a big placard that simply reads STOP! I wonder if I did, how many people would take the time to come and see just what I was up to, and why I wanted to break into the frenetic activity I find around me. I want to invite people to take time out from tinsel, and to give themselves a breathing space. In that space I pray that some form or perspective might begin to dawn...
I am aware that I am repeating myself. I have said so much of this before, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record I will continue to say it. We need to STOP! Advent is not about chocolate filled calenders it is a season of repentance and fasting just as Lent is, it is also a season of preparation, one that calls us not to look to the babe in the manger but rather to the risen Christ WHO WILL COME AGAIN. Last Sunday's gospel reading brought with it the challenge not to get caught up in dissipation and drunkenness but challenged us instead to look beyond the cares and desires of this world.
Do I struggle with all of this? Oh yes, I was brought up to believe that Christmas was all about presents and feasting. I feel guilty if I don't enter into the spirit of the season, but through my struggle I want to encounter the Spirit who made the season a cause for celebration, the Spirit who opened the virgins womb and made the incarnation a reality. That same Spirit is the one who brought life to the lifeless body of Jesus and raised the babe of Bethlehem restoring him to heavens glory. It is that Spirit, the Holy Spirit whose fire I want to fill my life in and through the coming celebrations, and because of that I need the season of Advent, not so that I can prepare through purchases filling my life with clutter. Rather I need to be emptied, I need time out from tinsel, for although it is particularly noticeable at Christmas time, glitter and tinsel beckon to us through out the year in one way or another.
So I am taking time out, to seek the one who calls to us; he sees that we are weary and burdened, and he invites us aside. He offers us rest, and if we chose the road to radical recovery, and long, no yearn to live a life free from consumerism's grip and look instead for contentment, he promises to walk with us and work with us.
We can choose to take permanent time out from tinsel, and in doing do we might just find that we really have something to celebrate!