This weekend sees the beginning of Advent and the start of the Christian year. Four weeks to think about and reflect on the meaning of the Christ child for ourselves and for the world. For many, this time is a period of busy preparations for Christmas - getting the tree out of the cupboard, setting it up and decorating it with baubles and lights. For those more industrious in the kitchen area, cakes and puddings may well be already baked and put aside for the festive day. Cards are written, presents bought (perhaps this year by the internet rather than the pleasure of going to the highly decorated shops) and invitations sent.
And yet, this period of Advent, like Lent, asks of us a time of watchful reflection, weighing up our thoughts, faith, and state of mind. A time of expectation not for partying, although I am sure parties make the depth of winter somehow more able to be coped with, but for an inward and outward setting right with ourselves and with each other. And so we approach this time, positively, looking for the good and responding to the challenges. We reflect on our relationships and how we act in the world. We look beyond our own concerns and give time and effort to make other people's lives better and more whole. We are encouraged to offer love and respect to all and especially this year for everyone struggling to get by; as we do so, we are challenged to give to food banks and shelters, to think and pray for those who will work over Christmas especially health care workers and support staff and to work for a better world.
And as we follow the star, let us commit to finding peace and joy for ourselves and for others.