It’s December and the days are longer, the air is warm and colour is everywhere. Christmas carols are ringing through shopping malls, Christmas parties have begun and Father Christmas lookalikes are confusing little kids right across the country. Here in bushy Warrandyte it’s bushfire season too, and I‘m in fire-ready mode, my overnight bag packed and tucked into the car boot, my computer is backed up and copied on to USBs all ready to transfer to my daughter’s suburban home.
And it’s Advent. Australia is a wonderful place to celebrate Advent.
Out walking, or driving from one place to another watch out for the jacaranda tree. Even though jacarandas grow all over the world, only ‘down under’ does it that stretch its brilliant purple-blue blossoms across back yards and public places during Advent. Those vibrant flowers on what are essentially stark branches are a symbol of the contradictions that surround the celebration of Christ’s birth. It can help to remember that the Advent purple of the Jacaranda is replaced by soft fernlike leaves that will give shade from the summer sun.
If you have a Missal take a fresh look at the words of Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet and poet. When he says things like, “Let the wasteland rejoice and bloom. Let the wilderness and dry lands exult.”(Is.35-1), I could almost imagine they were written on an Australian farmhouse veranda. When you water the garden or the pots on the patio, like Isaiah recognise the dry places in your own life – pray them.
Parents and those who are young at heart might like to borrow or buy Rain Dance, a children’s book which graphically and colourfully pictures a woman and her two small children waiting for the rain on a farm in Australia’s outback. (Rain dance / written by Cathy Applegate, illustrated by Dee Huxley). It’s a lovely Advent book that I return to year after year.
Christmas is often the only time of the year that extended families gather. This lead up to Christmas can be a good time to bring out a family photo album, to hear and tell family stories, especially birth stories. After all, each of us has had our own nativity filled with the same promise and hope that surrounded the first Christmas.
It’s an even better time to steal some personal time to gently reflect on the ups and downs of our life. I know, for many December is a busy month, so rather than waiting for a space in the rush and chaos consider timetabling a weekend walk or a late night cup of tea, for a sliver of precious personal time to link up with the God who is present in every twist and turn of your life story .
Now here’s more words from Isaiah, as he dreamt of a Messiah to come: “Arise, shine out, for your light has come, the glory of Yahweh is rising in you, thought night still covers the earth and darkness the peoples.” (Is. 60 1-2) It’s possible to recapture the feel of his words when you take an after-dark drive around your neighbourhood to admire Christmas lights.
Or take a walk on a clear night and look at the stars. Have your own Christmas star. Ours came from Ikea and shines brightly every night of the Christmas season – and a little before and after too. As the Gospel of Matthew says, “And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
May you find traces and echoes of Sophia, the one John named The Word, right through Advent.