“…and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the Child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, the were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the Child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:9b-11
I think it’s fair to say that the majority of folk today don’t know what to ‘do’ with Advent. It seems to have become subsumed into ‘commercial Christmas’, the time of frenetic activity that we have allowed Christmas to become. ‘Advent’ only gets mentioned with ‘Calendar’, and most of those are filled with chocolates that bear no connection to what the Season is really about. In the not too distant past, Advent was observed as a penitential season, rather like a mini-Lent, when we call to mind our own mortality, and reflect on how we are through God’s word in the Bible. They can be challenging and uncomfortable words. However, there is a great undercurrent of longing and hope, pointing to the great day when God, through Jesus Christ, will come again and draw all things into perfection.
The verses from Matthew’s Gospel are often seen as justification for giving Christmas gifts to one another, one that our consumer culture has fully hooked onto, and hijacked Advent in the process. But…. take a look at those verses again, and notice that the Wise Men didn’t give gifts to one another. They brought gifts for the child Jesus, of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They gave the very best and costly gifts that they could. They were extravagant. Three gifts that symbolise Royalty and Priesthood, fit for a King and God.
Can I encourage you to join me, and take time out during Advent, even if it’s just a few moments somewhere in your busy day? Let’s consciously pause, and take stock of what we are preoccupied with during this Advent. Is it the shopping? Worrying about how your bank balance will fair? The relentless Christmas activities and services? Or something else…?
Join the Wise Men in your imagination, and reflect on the joy and wonder that they experienced, allowing it to turn into prayer. Take time out to let yourself be a precious gift to Jesus. No wrapping, no tinsel, just you: become preoccupied with Him. Let’s ask God to refresh our Advent: for us to ponder on the Gift who came; who will come again; and who comes to us now. And then, together, we can celebrate the perfect Christmas. Do share your thoughts with me, I’d love to hear how Advent is for you!