December 2017: Get Ready
I love watching the Tour De France on TV every summer. The daily highlights show in the early evening takes centre stage. I’ve once been to see it. In 2001 I was in Paris for the end of the Tour. It was exciting to be in the city, feeling the excitement build during the day. We found a good spot by the River Seine to watch the riders. We waited for a couple of hours. Finally we saw the police outriders coming. Next moments the riders were on us.
And then they were gone. Travelling at 40 mph they were past in a moment. In a flash it was over.
That’s why if you really want to get a good view of the race you have to go to a mountain stage. The steeper the road, the slower the riders will be going. They will come past at not much more than walking pace. You can see the pain etched on their faces and hear them gasping for air.
The mountain stages usually take place on narrow roads in the back of beyond. There aren’t many places to park your car and the access roads are closed off hours before. So there’s no point making a last minute decision to go and watch the riders on one of these stages. You need to get ready. You need to plan to be there hours beforehand. You need to be prepared to wait a long time for the riders to arrive. But if you do, your efforts will be rewarded.
I think Christmas is a bit like this. Christmas is a very busy time of year. There is so much to do – presents to buy and wrap, parties to go to, feasts to prepare and attend. So often Christmas becomes a desperate rush to get things done. We spend half of December chasing our tails. We don’t know whether we are coming or going. Suddenly Christmas is upon us. Next moment it’s over. We have failed to appreciate the wonder. A miracle has occurred among us. Yet we were so busy, we weren’t ready to notice, And it has passed us by.
That’s why Advent matters. Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is an invitation to get ready. Advent is an invitation to notice that Christmas is coming. Advent is a prompt to make space to prepare our hearts and minds. Yes, we still need to buy presents. It would be wrong not to be sociable. Yet what we often lose is balance.
At Christmas there ends up being too much consumption and not enough contemplation. There is too much work and not enough worship. Our lives are over-filled with activity and under-filled with adoration. We get to Boxing Day and wish we’d found a better balance.
Advent is an opportunity to avoid that happening. Advent reminds us that Christ is coming. It's a time to get ready. It’s an invitation to fence off time for Jesus. It’s a reminder of the substance that gives our festivities their meaning.
Advent is God’s invitation. The RSVP is in your hands.