When should you start getting ready for Christmas? Good question and lots of answers.
A provocative answer is that Mary started on March 25th – Lady Day, 9 months before the birth (accepting the traditional dates)! [And that was why the tax-year began and ended then (until the calendar jumped a few days!)]
A traditional answer might be that the decorations go up on Christmas Eve and stay up for the 12 days of Christmas (and there are complicated calendar reasons why there are 12 days of Christmas), but most of us can’t and won’t wait that long.
The Church traditionally asks worshippers to begin their spiritual preparations on Advent Sunday, which is next week, to prepare their hearts to receive again or afresh the Prince of Peace, as well as to remember and prepare for the coming again in glory of Jesus the King. So the Church Year starts on Advent Sunday and that makes this coming Sunday the last Sunday of the year!
In the old days, it was affectionately known as Stir Up Sunday, from the first words of the special prayer for the day and there was an ancient custom that you stir your pudding on that Sunday; in recent years Turton has revived this as a church event, though not this year. In the last decades, the Sunday has become known as the Feast of Christ the King, which is a bit odd when the following Sunday we will start the preparations to wait for the King and his return!
Maybe we can understand it rather like the end of term service where we wrap up the story for the year. At the end of our church year we recognise that whatever has happened and whatever is happening Christ is King and Christ will reign, just as we pray each week for God’s Kingdom to come.
I like this idea, that we will have an end-of-term or end-of-year service where we acknowledge the ultimate truth. Our own reports might be patchy, even “could do better” or “must try harder” but we focus on the “Head Boy” and who he is and what he has achieved. And it is important then that we know we will be preparing for a new year, that we will continue to work and wait, be alert to the signs of God in the world, and awake for signs of his return.
So for us, with whatever the coming year will bring, whatever the past year has brought, we pause, we acknowledge God is King, and we commit to living as God calls us in the coming year.
And as a church, we begin our preparations for Christmas, the preparing of our hearts and souls and minds the following Sunday and through Advent. Do join us for this journey, and why not join us for our Advent Course, “Walking through Advent” with its themes of walking, waiting, wondering and worshipping. Details of when, where and how are below. Let’s get ready for Christmas!
Rev’d Peter Reiss