Hallo again to all.
Good heavens; it's Advent. The new year. Where did the time go?
In worship services all 'round the planet, congregations sang Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus and Once in Royal David's City and Lo, he comes with clouds descending. Preachers all over the world today preached sermons about Advent being a time of preparation, of getting ready. Congregations all over the world listened with glazed eyes to explanations of what Advent really means.
It is probably best that the glazed-over listeners didn't know that, more often than not, the preacher hadn't quite followed it all when studying the eschatology of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, and had quite a hard time following the explication of the birth of this concept at the Eleventh Council of Toledo in AD675 (reputedly attended by just 17 bishops). No one outside a theological college is likely to subject listeners to comments on the role of the Fourth Lateran Council (AD1215) in refining the notion of the Four Last Things, but even there, we're confident that at least half the eschatology class was daydreaming. This is complicated and obscure stuff, even if it is literally a matter of life and death.
No, we'd venture a guess that when brave and skilled and patient preachers tried today to explain Advent beyond 'preparation for Christmas', the vast majority of their congregations were thinking about when to put up Christmas decorations and whether or not to buy a gift for an incommunicado relative who hadn't sent even a card in several years.
In past centuries, 'preparation for the coming of Christ' (be it the first or second) was, we think, a philosophical and spiritual exercise. God loves trained theologians and fishmongers alike, and it can't have been necessary to understand the theology of the Four Last Things in order to live a proper Advent. It was the theologians and not the fishmongers who wrote about Advent and held councils to discuss its minutiæ. No wonder the writings are hard to understand. Fishmongers can be philosophical people too, especially in Advent, but they don't normally write about it. If they did write about it, I think we can trust that their writing would be brief and to the point.
In our time, preparation for the coming of Christ means, for most people, something very different. Yes, there are the educated few who are able to perform the philosophical calisthenics traditional for this Advent season. But for most, the preparation is to separate the sacred from the secular, the cultural Christmas from the Coming of Christ. This year there are about 620 hours between the end of the I Advent service and the first worship service of Christmas. Most of us will spend about 200 of those hours sleeping, 200 of those hours at our jobs or commuting to them, and about 200 hours at the routines of life: cooking, eating, cleaning, shopping, dressing, banking, and all that. That leaves about 20 hours to do the work of Advent.
That's an hour a day. Not even a tithe of your time; that would be 2 hours and 24 minutes per day. Wouldn't it be delightful if you could really spend an hour a day getting ready for the comings of Christ, getting your soul ready for Christmas? We think you're entitled to count the time you spend reading Anglicans Online as part of one of those hours, but why don't you start your first hour right now? Whatever it is that you planned to do after reading this web page, why don't you put it off and spend just 60 minutes preparing yourself.
You don't even need to leave the computer. Canada's 'Buy Nothing Christmas' movement has lots of possibilities, including a wiki-style 'Buy Nothing Catalogue'. While you're thinking of catalogues, you can (only if you live in North America, alas) go to Catalog Choice and ask the merchants to stop sending you so many mail-order catalogues. You can contribute to Oxfam Unwrapped, or to Heifer International. You can volunteer to spend an hour ringing a bell on a street corner for the Salvation Army or take on their Soup Kitchen Challenge. You can learn more Anglican history (not always spiritually edifying) or read an entire book of the Bible or learn Taizé songs. Your options are unlimited.
Even spending half an hour each day trying to figure out how you can use the second half of your allotted hour hour to better prepare for the coming of Christ will be time well spent. If you find something that works for you, tell us about it. We'll print the suggestions and responses that we find most intriguing and we'll probably add them to our list of Advent Resources for next year.
See you next week. Try to spend 7 hours on Advent between now and then.
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