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Restoring the value of time

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    For Western Christian faiths today has been Advent Sunday. What’s all that about? At first sight it is an odd thing, marking as it does the start of a period of waiting. Waiting for a month or so for the celebration of the birth of Christ. But the waiting serves a purpose. It provides a time for reflection, a time of increasing expectation. The nature of the whole period is captured very colourfully in John Cennick’s famous and passionate mid-18th century Advent hymn ‘Lo he comes with clouds descending’, which builds and builds towards the crescendo ‘O come quickly! Allelujah! Come Lord come!’ (John Wesley later plagiarised the hymn and changed these words a bit to adopt as his own.)

    Whether or not we follow Christ or whether or not we have any faith at all, the whole Advent thing gets one thinking about the way of our lives today. We exist in a world where, for many, time seems to have been promoted from a tool – a means to an end – to the end itself. Immediacy has often become the goal. We have fast food, instant meals, Instagram, curious Twitter and text messaging (I’m on the bus to work’ … ‘At work, dreary’ … ‘is it 5 o’clock yet – yawn’ … ) A social media bazaar of inanity. We rush. Rush to work, rush back. More seriously, we can rush to judgment, making unwise decisions and sometimes causing unanticipated distress. Because we don’t stop to think. To reflect. To look forward. To wait.

    So waiting seems a pretty good idea. Christian or not, maybe Advent offers a life object lesson for all of us.  (Assisted by a daily treat from our Advent calendars!)


    Colin, I recognize the rush, rush, rush. Waiting seems such a waste of time … I rush to fill the waiting time with something worthwhile. But what is worthwhile? Is it because I cannot tolerate the waiting space? Am I willing to stop, wait, prepare for the outcome of the waiting.

    The outcome of the first Advent was a surprise. What I prepare for and wait for might also be a surprise because I do not know the future. But I think you are right …. If I did less rushing, more waiting I might be more ready for whatever comes.

    I took some young people to see the Festival of Lights at National Trust property Mountstewart Sat past … One young man taught me a lesson when he said ‘it’s just nice to walk here And not have to do anything. It allows me to just be.’


    In the Jewish tradition, one day in every seven (Shabbat or Sabbath) was dedicated to “just being”.

    Though, of course, “just being” not in isolation, but with God and family and friends.

    As far as I know, no other ancient religious tradition had this – though those who followed Jesus the Lord inherited the tradition and carried it into Sunday…

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