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Hallo again to all.

Waiting. Anticipating. Tolerating time. Our modern world is each year less tolerant of time than it was before. In every corner of life in this century, it seems that sooner is better. The faster something can be, the less patient we seem to be with time. Why doesn't this website load faster? Why is there a delay when I talk and listen on my mobile phone? For that matter, why didn't you answer on the first ring? Why must I wait until tomorrow to receive the parcel I ordered from that online merchant? Why does the digital camera not take the picture at the moment I press the button? Don't you sell any spray paint that dries any faster than this? Why can't you refill this medicine prescription while I'm standing here? And the Sydney Harbour Bridge will no longer accept cash for tolls, because cash is too slow. A sundial

In centuries past, the pace of life was not under our control. Flowers planted didn't bloom until they were ready. Paint dried when it dried. Portraits were painted in oil, not pixels. If cameras existed they used film. The trousers ordered from the mail-order catalogue arrived in a fortnight. Websites were spun by spiders, overnight. Bridge fees involved trolls, not tolls, and it was hard work turning the pike to let the wagon through. In those days, Advent made perfect sense. It was a natural part of the cycle of life, just like harvesting barley, feeding cattle, or changing the oil in the motorcar. We've all heard the quip that time is God's way of making sure that everything doesn't happen at once. We were much more at peace with the passage of time. Our major feasts were octaves--eight days--and we usually knew which feast came next.

A few religious groups have, en masse, chosen to ignore the passage of time, and continue to live in the past. The Amish in Pennsylvania are the best-known group whose ethos stresses separation from the world*. Anglicans Online and its community of readers are part of the modern world; we try to proclaim the Good News by being part of the world, not separating from it. But there has always been something enchanting to us about living our lives, as much as possible, as if it were a different time. Not so much that when we go out we are treated as oddities, and perhaps not even so that anyone else even knows. Unable to make a whole-life commitment to the cessation of time, as have the Amish, we are able to make little pockets of time stand still, here and there. A card celebrating the nativity of Our Lord, by Eric Gill

We see this year in the contrails of December an opportunity to live the Old Way for a few days. The Fourth Sunday of Advent has come and gone; our ritual period of waiting is essentially over, but there are still six more days until Christmas. Six days! What an eternity! What shall we do, other than to begin our Christmas shopping, trusting that we can still use air express to get the parcel to its destination by the week-end?

Recognise it as a gift! The pace of our world has left Advent so far behind that we can pick it up, dust it off, and use what's left of it for its original purpose. We have six days left to wait, and to think about waiting, and to pray while waiting. We can light our candles and watch them slowly burn down, thinking about Mary and Joseph's nine-month wait so long ago. Maybe we'll make some bean soup, which takes hours to cook over a slow fire. Dare we try to make some bread? Perhaps we'll pick up a pen and write an actual letter to a loved one, hoping that it won't get lost amidst the avalanche of obligatory Christmas Cards. We needn't emulate monastics: listening to our favourite piano concerto, all the way through, in utter silence otherwise, without doing anything else but listen, will work for us. We even have a certain temptation to pull down and read a volume of Charles Dickens.

Last week we wrote: 'In the run-up to our tenth anniversary, we'd like to ask something of our readers: Tell us something of how you make use of AO in your life. Have you found a link to a resource that's helped you in your ministry? Did we help you locate an Anglican church in Rio de Janeiro? Was there a poem, letter, or image that inspired you? Have we made you smile through some Anglican silliness? Did we point you to a news story you might otherwise have missed? In our tenth anniversary issue, which we'll publish two weeks from today, on 26 December, we'll publish a selection of the letters we receive. We can't think of any better way to celebrate than to combine your words with ours'. Not written yet? There's still time...

All of us at Anglicans Online wish a Happy Christmas to our friends round the world: Love, light, grace, and peace to each of you as you celebrate the nativity of our Saviour. Rejoice!

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 19 December 2004

*It made us smile to note that there were not one but two animated images on one of the more popular Amish websites.

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