Advent is often treated as an
"odd" time that happens just
before the "real" celebration -
Christmas. To a large extent
it's a stressful, shopping
period in preparation for the
25th of December. It's
completely understandable that
parents should want to do the
"best" for their children. The
question is, "what does doing
the best for them", mean?
What is it that children want
and need? As far as their
"wants" go, they want everything
they see being advertised on TV.
They don't need all of that.
What they do need are parents
who care for them, parents who
will spend time with them. They
need parents who will behave as
grown ups and say "no" when "no"
is appropriate. Living in a
home, where you get appropriate
attention, where you know you
really matter and where you're
loved enough for adults to set
limits for you, makes you a
happy, healthy and confident
child, with a bright future.
None of the latest toys,
computer games etc can do this
for a child.
As adults we shouldn't be afraid
to bring a touch of reality to
Christmas. For those who are
fortunate enough to be living in
a comfortable home with all the
basics provided there is no harm
in reminding children and young
people about those who are
homeless; those who are living
in cramped bed and breakfast
accommodation or those who have
even less and are forced to
sleep on the streets.
But it's not only children who
have inflated wants. Many of us
grown ups will be tempted to go
into debt to get what we "need"
or to give what we think our
friends cannot do without. When
January comes and the bills
start to arrive, the brief
period of fun and enjoyment will
come to a screeching halt.
Advent, invites us to step back
from everything, take a deep
breath and give ourselves time
to reflect. Advent wants us to
enjoy Christmas but without the
madness that often leads to a
bad head, depression and bills
we can't pay.
Advent, is filled with hope,
expectation and incredible
excitement, because we are
preparing to celebrate the birth
of the one person who can give
us everything we need. Jesus was
challenged one day and asked,
"Why are you here"? He replied,
"I have come that you may life,
and have it to the full." The
strange thing is, that having
"life to the full" means,
letting go rather than grabbing
everything in sight.
Advent invites us to make a
journey, from the circle of our
own self-involvement to a life
shared with others. To do that,
we have to let go of our own
concerns and worries, to make
room for the concerns of others.
We have to let go of attitudes
that cut us off from others and
adopt a spirit of generosity
which is irresistible to others.
Advent calls us to a life that
is "people centred" rather than
"gadget centred"; a life that is
inclusive and not exclusive.
Advent calls us to make God's
Dream for us, a reality in our
But the real icing on the cake,
is the long term view that
Advent invites us to take. We
look to the day when Jesus will
return and fulfil completely all
the promises made through his
life, death and resurrection.
Life has its tough times. We
need hope to get us through
those times, and that hope is
the promise that all of creation
will one day be transformed. The
present selfishness that leads
to injustice, war, the
destruction of the planet and a
deep pessimism in humanity will
be overcome. Now that IS
something to look forward to.