Kirk Braddan

The Vicar's Letter

From the December/January issue of Branch, the Kirk Braddan parish magazine

Happy Advent

It's unusual saying that as a greeting – the same way as saying 'Happy Lent'. We may not put the run-up to the big church festivals at the forefront of our minds when thinking of the final act: Easter Sunday or Christmas itself. It's a sign of society's shift that less emphasis is placed on the Resurrection time of year than the chocolate eggs which are received, or that more people are concerned about Sunday lunch than the celebration of the breakfast before it.

But Christmas is different, and thankfully so. And with it, so too is Advent.

For an inexplicable reason (possibly because it's not a moveable feast), Christmas has retained a sense of mystery and expectation which confounds even the most aggressively evangelical atheist. Mounds of Christmas faff appears in the shops to make things glittery, with hours upon hours of films dedicated to Christmas continue to get made. (With channels dedicated to Christmas movies now all year round!).

So, thankfully, even the most miserable of Scrooges cannot escape the fact that one particular time of year owns beauty, mystery and expectation.

Were it not for what we stand for, there would be no Christmas. The word itself is a constant reminder of the story only we can tell. That is not something to lament among the commercialism of an Elton John advertising campaign, but something we should celebrate as the Great Secret only we know, and are entrusted to tell everyone about.

I was struck some years ago about the lack of children knowing Away In A Manger: adults weren't singing at a school nativity so it was no surprise the children didn't. But then they turned around and asked what a manger is and what the carol meant. And from a worry that people were less inclined to celebrate Christmas, those years have passed showing more people DO want to know.

Children ask what the word Christmas means and why there is so much focus on it and where it came from. There is only one answer (and it's not 'Season's Greetings' or other such inconsequential rubbish).

Christians own that answer. Churches own the opportunity to invite the stranger into a loving place and open up the reality of God being born as a child. The expectations and mysteries this season holds are no surprise to his brothers and sisters who use Advent as the run-up to that celebration which overcame, overturned, and continues to confound the world.

So, let us celebrate it year after year, confident it is not being lost amid the world's noise and fuss, but holds the truth we know and are told to go out and share.

Have a blessed and happy Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.