Written by June Nash
I like Advent. In fact, I prefer it to Christmas. I think it is the anticipation that appeals to me. In some ways Christmas Day is the end and I always prefer beginnings to ends. The other thing about Christmas Day is that it is often a day of overindulgence and can leave you feeling rather flat.
Advent, on the other hand, is that exciting time when you build up to the birth of Jesus. I love Advent calendars and the opening of the doors every day to give you the slow reveal of the Christmas story, verse by verse. I love the different readings too and in particular the coming of the light.
With all the decorations and candles, Advent for me is a season of light, despite the short days. In tropical Papua New Guinea, with its neat 12 hours of light and dark, Christmas Eve was my favourite time. The Church always celebrated the Christmas story with Candles by Candlelight. I miss celebrating in the sultry evening with the fragrance of frangipani and the glow of candles – even if we were always in fear of rain as it was the start of the wet season.
Now, in the UK, in contrast to the snowy Dickensian Christmas pictures that are featured on our Christmas cards, the reality is that Christmas is usually grey and damp. It gets dark around 3:30-ish. No wonder we want lots of fairy lights on Christmas trees and around our houses. To be honest Advent can be a very gloomy time of year. Candles and Christmas lights offer some cheer. They remind me of the Bible verse 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light' (Isaiah 9:2).
It is not just the climate that is gloomy either. I must say that listening to or reading the news makes me realise the darkness around; perhaps it is a facet of getting older, or the filming and communication of every situation, but I am more and more aware of 'walking in darkness'.
It is wonderful to me that the baby in the manger is the light of the world. He came to bring light to those of us in darkness. The light has come, and the darkness will not overcome it. What a comfort that is. Thank heavens then for Advent and its theme of light overpowering darkness. Whatever the darkness in your life – whether you are someone affected by leprosy struggling with the darkness of stigma and discrimination, someone coping with the gloom of poverty, feeling depressed or ill, or just feeling the darkness of the current world situation – Advent brings warmth and joy and the promise of God's coming not only in Bethlehem but also in the future. He is coming again. He is in charge. He is light. So, let us not be gloomy but rejoice in the light that brings hope and joy.
June Nash worked for The Leprosy Mission for 35 years both on the field and at the International Office in Brentford, London.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.