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It comes in the darkest time of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and at a time when our ancestors needed fire and a celebration to remind them that the light would come again, as would the warmth. Ad venire – looking towards his coming, hence Advent, is our Christian way of expressing the same feeling, but in a deeper fashion. In our modern era it is a time of rush and busyness, but for Christians we must, somehow and from somewhere, find the time and space for the quietness in which we can contemplate the mystery of the Incarnate Lord. For it is the deepest and greatest of mysteries, that the omnipotent God should have responded to our disobedience and selfishness with love, and love that extended to the Cross.

All of this tends to make many modern people uncomfortable – one of the many sad consequences of the imbalance that has entered into our theology – as though mercy and judgment were somehow not part of each other. If we have no sense that there is anything from which we need saving, we shall never know the need for a Saviour, and may think that our problems can have some worldly cure; they cannot, and down that road of illusion lies ultimate despair. The darkness is broken only by the Light, and as long as we focus on that Light, the darkness cannot win; our broken sinfulness can distract us, can lead us away from the light into the deeper darkness, and that is the aim of satan, whose only pleasure is that others should have a share in his despair; mosery likes company.

Our consumerist culture has, to use a popular term, culturally appropriated Christmas, and we cannot wholly escape that; but we can turn it to our own purposes, just as our forebears turned the Winter Solstice celebrations. We can be sure to read the Scriptures set for the season and to pray on them; we can be sure to set aside time for prayer and prepare ourselves for the anniversary of his coming. The Sunday Advent readings remind us of what is to come, and if we stay with them, then we shall be prepared for the Christ Mass.

This, then, above all times, is a time of prayer. Jessica’s wonderful post yesterday is a reminder to us all of how powerful prayer is, and how those who are its object can be buoyed up by it. It is our conversation with God, and even if we think he is not talking back, he is, it is just that we do not, perhaps, know how to listen.

Jessica has asked me to say a big thank you to all of you who responded to her surprise post, and says we shouldn’t get over-excited – but she is very grateful. And with that, whilst the secular world uses this Friday to splurge out, we can use it to focus our minds on the reason for the coming season.

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