Here’s the text of my latest Credo column for the Newark Advertiser published today.
Over halfway through December already. How did that happen? As you read this there’s only a week until the Big Day.
We often hear it said that Christmas starts earlier every year but this year it might be true. It seems that lots of people have decided that they need cheering up after the challenging time we’ve been through, and so decided that the outside lights and the Christmas tree could be justifiably brought out in November this year.
But strictly speaking it’s still not Christmas you know. Noddy Holder might have been yelling that it is for weeks now, but it’s actually Advent. Advent is a period of anticipation, of waiting, of expectation.
There’s a psychological term called Delayed Gratification. The idea is that you avoid taking pleasure immediately in the hope that by doing so you will get more pleasure later. So most folk don’t open their presents the minute they get them; instead they go under the tree until Christmas morning. It’s much more fun that way. The ability to delay gratification is considered very good for you. If you’re good at it there’s a good chance you will be more successful in life.
We’re having a lot of practice this year in waiting and delaying gratification, but not through choice. Instead it’s being forced upon us. We simply can’t have the pleasure of being with all our family and friends, going out for a meal, visiting the cinema or (a particularly difficult one for me) going for a pint in the pub. What is it that you’re most looking forward to being able to do when things get back to ‘normal’?
Of course what Christians are waiting for in Advent is something that is very much worth waiting for. It’s Jesus, who did put the Christ in Christmas after all. Christians would say that after Jesus came, after that first Christmas, he’s never really gone away – that he’s always here, always available to us. So in that sense there’s no need to wait for him to arrive. But the Advent season gives us the chance, every year, to pause and think about the enormous impact of that earth-shattering event in Palestine.
Whether you are a Christian or not there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus’ life was the most significant one ever lived. But if you are a Christian you believe that Jesus’ life actually showed us what God is like and that Jesus’ words told us how we should live our lives. And that’s worth dwelling on for a few weeks every year.
I’ll be celebrating as much as the next person when the coronavirus restrictions are finally lifted. But in the meantime I’ll be celebrating the most wonderful Christmas gift of all.
Mark Taylor – Joint Leader, Newark Congregational Church