The meaning of Advent has been somewhat lost: hidden under piles of to do lists, Christmas decorations, brightly coloured adverts demanding that we yield to their tempting offers and a rather large dollop of stress as we consider how exactly Aunt Mabel is going to avoid making a slurred and offensive comment across the turkey under the influence of too much Sherry.
Advent is a season of preparation, but it's not entirely clear what we are preparing for. There is a somewhat daunting pressure for this December 25th to surpass the extravagance of last year: for better presents, crispier roast potatoes and happier family members. We struggle against the tide of consumerism and, despite our best efforts, succumb to buying presents that aren't really needed. Then berate ourselves for doing so.
I hate that I give in to festive stress.
A phrase that has been bothering me for a few weeks is "make room." There was "no room available" (Luke 2.7) for Jesus when he arrived. He came to us but we were too busy, too warped by our own needs and preconceptions, to notice him, too preoccupied to receive him as the precious and beautiful gift that God intended him to be. (John 1.10 - 11). I don't want to be too busy this Advent. I don't want to miss all the beautiful gifts that God has given because I am panic present shopping.
And so, this year, we gathered our little Sunday lunch community together to "make room" for others this Advent. We sat and prayed and planned, a subversive collective trying to wage war against consumerism. Wide-eyed and giggling, we determined to so some serious baking: to secretly present a little bag of edible goodies on the doorstep of someone in our community each day of Advent, to show the love of God through gingerbread made with sticky fingers and tags smothered in PVA glue and glitter. To surprise our friends with a reminder that they are loved and special and that we want to "make room" for them amidst our own busy lives.
Today is Day One. I'm pretty excited to wait for the stories to start piling in; for surprised statuses on Facebook as people celebrate being celebrated and, for a moment, forget about their to do lists.
As a remedy for festive stress, I can highly recommend it.