I happened to be in London on General Synod business in the first week of November. In a spare moment after the committee business was over I was able to take myself down Oxford Street. Perhaps it was to be expected but there already installed and only waiting to be lit were the Christmas decorations. I went into the shops and Christmas music as wafting over the sound system. There is a logic in these commercially challenging times, for those who depend on good sales figures to do all in their power to create a feeling of good will that helps their cause. What was evident was that plenty of preparation was going in to ensure a good commercial Christmas.


How might we best prepare for Christmas? Now that December has arrived there may be a range of feelings as the day and season approach. For some the preparations bring with them excitement and joy. For others sharing with the young as they revel in the wonder and magical imaginations brings with that a reward of its own. To the contrary others, under the sheer pressure, panic or overspend with consequences that last well beyond the celebrations. For others there is sadness at the years past or simply a dislike of all the hype. We are all different and we come from different perspectives and dispositions. Nevertheless the question remains: How might we best prepare for Christmas?


Advent has traditionally been the way Christians prepare themselves inwardly as well as practically. Recently advent crowns and calendars have regained popularity but advent has a specific purpose beyond these trappings. It is a time for careful reflection about relationships, mortality, living wisely and yes even dying well. Its purpose has been and remains one of enabling us to recognise our limitations and that life is a gift from God. Advent encourages us to seek to know God better and to bring our lives more fully in harmony with his. Christmas makes sense in the light of Advent as we welcome the one called Immanuel -God with us, the one whom St John wrote came to give us life and life in all its fullness.


+Alistair


A letter from the Bishop of Ludlow

December 2016