Reverend Lydia Smith writes …
Advent calendars are an important part of our countdown to Christmas. They come in all shapes and sizes these days – and they’re not just for children either. In addition to the chocolate versions, there are those that offer 24 colours of nail varnish, 24 mini bottles of whisky or 24 scented candles. In a brief survey of the market, the strangest of all my findings was undoubtedly the pork scratching calendar, boasting tiny bags of flavoured pork crackling behind each of the 24 doors.
Although marking the time until Christmas is something we’ve done for centuries, our printed advent calendars with little doors to open every day are a comparatively recent innovation. They are considered to originate from Germany, probably in the early twentieth century. By the 1920s German children could enjoy the daily advent ritual of opening the next door and some were even rewarded with chocolate as well as a picture. It was only after the second world war that advent calendars were adopted elsewhere. A picture of US president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandchildren with a calendar sold to raise funds for the National Epilepsy League may have proved influential.
This count down towards Christmas is important for Christians because Advent is a time of preparation. During the season, which covers the four Sundays before Christmas (starting this year on Sunday 3 December), we get ready for the big event. We prepare not just our houses, but also our hearts and minds. As in the advent calendars of my childhood, we follow the stories of the prophets who predicted Jesus’ coming, of Mary and Joseph learning that they would be the parents of the promised child, of the shepherds and angels…
In our churches I invite you to hear again that story of the first Christmas in words and music in carol services and other events. The story is old now, but its promise of God with us still lives, its values of love and hope and joy are still fresh, still needed. After another year of violence at home and abroad, we have good reason to repeat again the angels’ message of peace, to take that message into our hearts and homes.
May this Advent and Christmas be a time of peace and joy for you and for all those whom you love and care for.