Smallthwaite Knott, Kentmere, Lake District
Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation for Christmas. We are encouraged to take time-out to reflect on our journey, to become present to our hopes and fears and to truly see the harsh realities of the world in which we live. All this is wrapped up in the festive language of awareness, stillness, longing and promise; and our name is on the gift tag. The precious God-gift of love awaits hands eager to unwrap the mystery. And the times are dark and threatening.
Reading the Advent scriptures it is clear that it is always like this. The story is not comfortable and the texts are not cosy because life is tough and uncertain. The carnage in Mumbai and the still unfolding consequences of the credit crunch remind us of what is true for suffering humanity down the ages. Amidst all the terrible cacophony of injustice and hurt, what is offered in Advent is the promise that, if we can just become still and listen, we will hear the godly voice of authentic humanity crying out in cadences of hope, calling us to each other and to action together, in our wilderness.
So a prerequisite for Advent is that we become mindful. Getting ready for Christmas seems to involve just the opposite. Let the image of the horse serve as a reminder and a challenge. If we are to celebrate meaningfully the birth of Emmanuel, God with us, the key is that we are willing to become mindful of that truth within us. 'Preparing the Way' begins right there. It starts with our next breath. The present moment of God's presence is now.