You will find me plodding through Advent. In all honesty I don’t suppose I was a patient child. Waiting, especially in anticipation of Christmas is not something children are supposed to be good at. I guess some adults are not that good at it either! Waiting is a learned art. However, Advent offers us an opportunity for a specific sort of waiting. For it is a time of preparation and expectation, not least for the blockbuster film release, the over indulgence on the day itself and a jumper from Aunt Marge – two sizes too large – wear once then discard. The season of advent is often taken up with frantic running about to be ready for one or two days of the year when shops will not be open. How will we cope? I would like to think that Advent can be more than this – a season in itself rather than the overpriced Christmas meal starter which fails to satisfy or prepare us at all for the main course. Or even one which pretends to be the main event, then when that finally arrives – to be honest I’d had my fill already and now I feel well, cheated.
So in antithesis of all this I offer you ‘the plodder’.
You’ll get left behind! How wonderful. You’ll miss out! How lovely. You won’t achieve your personal best! How enjoyable. You won’t be influential! How true. You won’t be attractive, You won’t be clever! How divine. You won’t know what’s happening! How peaceful. etc.
Michael Leunig’s cartoon ‘the plodder’ sheds a simple light on the life of rushing to be ready. I think it sums up wonderfully the difference between the season of Advent and the countdown to the inevitable baby-fest where beer and food and excitement and shopping and probably church are all in high demand. Too much of any is not a wise choice.
Plodding through Advent rather than racing to the finish line, we begin to take the season seriously. Plodding has its advantages. There is time to consider the sun and the moon and the stars. Time to notice the distress on the earth and pay attention to what is actually going on around us day by day. Time to consider what response might really be required to the issues of today rather than nodding quickly in agreement with the loudest, best advertised voice before moving on to the next story demanding our attention. Plodding through advent we can listen to the roaring of the waves and the sea and even pay attention to our part of the story rather than getting confused by a few raised voices in angry protest over unknown futures for prices on markets that might never be. And people may even faint with fear and foreboding of what is to come, if only they took a moment to stop and consider what is happening around us this advent time of preparation and expectation. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken indeed, but who will stop to see it happen as the last dash to set up the lights begins? And once again in awful simplicity and dreadful poverty the son of man comes down to us to be born for us in a back street stable away from the hustle and the noisy crowd, but of course we’re getting ahead of ourselves we’ve got four weeks yet! Four weeks to learn to stop to see, will we be able to raise our heads that day to see that redemption is drawing near? And our preparation this advent, no, not of the sprouts or tinsel, shops or trees, sloe gin or wrapping paper, as much as those things are terribly important but the preparation of our hearts being made ready to be open to the gift that the birth of a child will bring. So join me this advent as a plodder to be on our guard so that our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. Well, so says St. Luke. And perhaps he has a point.