By Canon Deborah Parsons
I love the preparations for Christmas: buying the tree and decorating it; carol services; cinnamon-scented candles; cards; the lovely Christmas aromas; and delicious food. As a family, an important part of our preparation for Christmas is the opening of a traditional Advent calendar. Each day in Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, we take it in turns to open the next door of the Advent calendar until eventually, on Christmas Eve, we open the last door, which shows the nativity scene, as we anticipate the birth of the baby Jesus in the manger: The gift of Emmanuel, “God with us.”
For many, the run-up to Christmas seems to begin earlier, each year. In September, supermarkets were stocking their shelves with Christmas gifts as soon as the summer was over. From October, television adverts and fliers tempt us, and our children, with an Aladdin’s cave of “gifts we can’t wait to give.”
In November, our phones ping with Black Friday deals, as retailers hope that their accounts will move from being in the red to the black.
By December, the countdown to Christmas has begun in earnest. The shops are stacked to the brim in anticipation of bumper sales, even in times of financial difficulty and a cost-of-living crisis, and the world around us switches on colourful lights.
I read of a church, which offered various inspirational messages in illuminated lights to the passers-by on the main road. Their Christmas message, very appropriately, was the song of the angels: “Glory to God in the Highest.”
Unfortunately, poor weather or a technical failure had put out one of the lights. Just as appropriately, however, it now read: “Glory to God in the High st.” An electrical fault, perhaps, but how wonderfully true it was.
I hope, this year, as we enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market and go about our Christmas preparations, that we will make space for the Christ child to be born afresh in us.