The 16th of November – this is when the ancient Celtic church began observing Advent and Advent for them was a period of preparation, both inward and outward, for the Feast of Christmas.
David Baker of Dundee shares with us some thoughts as to how we might follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and prepare ourselves for the Feast of Christmas, lighting the way for others.
There is something very powerful in preparing for Christmas. The early Christian Scots knew this and spent time preparing themselves in various ways. One way was to remember all the back stories to the one Jesus story.
Over the weeks before Christmas itself they would tell stories of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and all the other men and women whose stories became part of the Jesus story.
As they told each story, they would draw a symbol of it and then hang each symbol on a tree. They called it a Jesse tree, after Jesse, the father of King David.
The most convenient way to prepare for Christmas today is to buy a pre-made Advent calendar. Each day we open a little door and take out a piece of chocolate. How different from the way our ancestors prepared themselves for such an important festival!
Perhaps it is time to reinvent the Celtic preparation and adapt it for today.
Why not make a list of 24 important people who have been part of your journey, people who have helped you to discover the real Jesus at the middle of the Christmas story? Write each name on a bit of paper and then throughout Advent take a name each day – pray for them and if you can, send a text or message to encourage them and share your Christmas joy.
Alternatively, we could turn the whole “chocolate for me” thing on its head and find 24 little things that you can easily give to somebody else as you prepare your own heart for Christmas. It could be small things – a sort of stocking filler – that can be given to someone you know or intentionally to a random stranger.
These little gifts can be really powerful and the gifts I have been given through the year keep reminding me to pray for the people who gave them to me (A Canadian gemstone and a silver coin are just two of those things that came my way during this year).
If being that prepared is not easy for you – another way would be to set yourself 24 challenges, one for each day. Simple things like buying someone a coffee, letting someone in a hurry cut in front of you, making sure you say thanks to someone who would normally get ignored (like the people who pick up litter).
Christmas is going to creep up on us, whether we are ready or not. These ideas are ways to prepare well.
Why not give it a go this year?