Sometimes I wake in the night feeling thirsty. It’s pitch dark and I carefully sit up in bed so as not to disturb my husband Shaun. I reach out for the glass of water on my bedside table, and although I cannot see it, my hand unerringly closes easily around the glass. I quench my thirst, and then I use my other hand to locate the edge of the table so that I put the drink down safely.
This small event may seem insignificant; but it carries an important message.
Though I cannot see the glass, I know that it is there and what is more, I can trustingly reach out and grasp it whenever I want, even when I am only half awake and bleary-eyed. What a brilliant example of faith! – in fact it’s blind faith in the true sense of the word.
I’m exposed daily to minor miracles which I take for granted. For instance, it may be easy to explain the practicalities of the process, but I am always amazed by everything that happens in the few seconds it takes to start my car. All elements have to be correctly aligned before that spark of energy fires the engine, and yet they come together every time.
I am sure I am not alone in trusting in many things I can neither see nor understand.
At this time of year, when the days are short and the darkness can seem impenetrable, literally and figuratively, I am grateful for the time of Advent. The spiritual aspect of the weeks leading to the festive celebrations is a good antidote to the frenetic preparation, shopping and cooking for Christmas get-togethers and precious family time.
Advent is in itself a period of reflection and anticipation.
Advent provides opportunities for stillness and serenity with an added air of expectation.
Advent promises the light after the darkness.
Advent offers the culmination of something special time after time.
Advent is a season that understands the emptiness of grief; it is a time that can begin to provide the filling of that emptiness and the repair of that which has been broken. For those who are grieving, the simple act of lighting a candle in remembrance offers the comfort of light to help in dispersing the darkness of loss.
The true essence of Christmas lies in the fulfillment of the promise of Advent, culminating in the telling and retelling of the story of the arrival of the much celebrated baby boy. Jesus was born all those years ago in Bethlehem and his birth may perhaps take the prize for ‘most renowned in history’.
We cannot see those long ago people now. We cannot hear their voices exclaiming, “How wonderful!” as they must have said when they gazed into the crib. We cannot feel their awed emotion, or taste their food, or drink their water. But what we can do is rejoice with our own faith that what they saw, felt, ate and drank laid many of the foundations for how we feel, eat and drink today.
Christmas is not just about the presents, it is also about the presence – the demonstration of belief and trust that happens year on year.
For relatively new Christians like me, the discovery of the anticipatory joy of Advent brings with it the excitement of learning the biblical background and understanding its messages. Advent and the arrival of the light of Christmas allow for a sense of renewal, restoration and replenishment of the spirit, ready for the turn of the year that is soon to follow.
Stringing the lights, wrapping the gifts, singing the carols and adorning the tree all carry the messages of light, joy and hope that are there for all to enjoy, however you choose to celebrate. If the enforced, collective jollity that is engendered by the run up to Christmas is not for you, then you can embrace your own ways of getting through the season. It’s a personal choice.
Perhaps you too will reach out for your own glass of water in the night and recognise how this reflects your personal view of faith and trust. It is all too easy to take the basics of life for granted. But they are underpinned by something truly ancient, immensely special and universally generous.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas!