Embracing The Unexpected and Slowing Down This Festive Season
by Alice Russell
Picture: Advent Candles alight at Christmas / Credit: learnreligions.com
By Alice Russell
Last Sunday, was the first day of Advent, which marks the beginning of the church year. We use our calendars to mark our time. Whether you buy a new one every January and stick it up on the fridge or you have gone digital and keep it on your phone, calendars are essential to our lives. They bring order and organisation to the constant cycle of life – things to do, dates to remember and events to tick off.
For me, and for many Christians, Advent places us on God’s calendar. As Christians, we believe history is not merely some cycle that goes around endlessly but is heading in a direction. This is a journey with a beginning and an ending, both defined by God and one on which God accompanies us.
Throughout the church year, Christians will remember the events of Jesus’ life that define God’s work in our world and in our lives (Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Kingdom season, amongst others), but we begin with Advent. Index our hearts towards gratitude, take time to remember the birth of the Messiah with anticipation, wonder, and excitement. We marvel at the humility of God becoming human with us. Personally, I worship, reflect, and celebrate with my church family.
Advent means Coming
Advent comes from the Latin 'adventus', meaning ‘coming’. Way back in the twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux, who was the founder of the Cistercian order of the monks, said that Christ comes to us in three different ways: firstly, in Bethlehem at Christmas; secondly, at the end of the age; and thirdly in the lives of believers every single day. So, during Advent, as I prepare my heart for Christ's coming, I also try to embrace this as an opportunity to go a little slower this season.
However, December can be a pretty stressful month. It can often whiz by in a blur of tinsel and turkey, of great expectations and after all, 'A Cure Can’t Wait'.
But during Advent, the unexpected takes centre stage. A well-known Advent hymn issues the invitation, ‘Come, though long-expected Jesus’. But when Jesus showed up, He overturned and surpassed all hopes of what He would be do. Although the arrival of a Messiah was prophesised by some, Jesus was certainly not what most people were expecting. Yet, those who met him never left unchallenged or unchanged. So in a season of hubbub, of social activities, of gift giving and consumption; of work pressures and strained family dynamics brought to the fore once more, I’m challenging myself to do the unexpected, and to go a little slower.
John Mark Comer, the founding pastor of Bridgetown Church, speaks a lot about the impact hurry has on us and makes a compelling case against busyness in favour of a slower, simpler way of life. He shares a few ideas (both faith based and not) about how to slow down this festive season here.
Whether you are Christian, observing Advent and celebrating Christmas, or not, how might you slow down this festive season?
N.B. This blog was first posted as an article on Brainwaves the weekly employee magazine of The Brain Tumour Charity.
About Alice Russell
Picture: Alice Russell, Development Manager (Scotland), The Brain Tumour Charity
/ Credit: The Brain Tumour Charity
Alice Russell is an experienced Project and Event Manager with a history of working in the non-profit sector. Alice is Development Manager (Scotland) at The Brain Tumour Charity and brings a breadth of volunteer management, fundraising and policy development experience as vice chair of People Know How, a social innovation charity based in Edinburgh and East Lothian.