The Lambfold Benefice

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Welcome to the website of
The Lambfold Benefice

A group of five Anglican rural parishes

in the geographical centre of England


December, the first doors of Advent calendars have been opened, and the countdown to Christmas has begun. Walking around a ‘well known ‘supermarket not so long ago, I was fascinated by the variety of what I took to be Advent calendars. And as I was wondering what Harry Potter, Star Wars, or even the more adult ‘Gin’ Advent Calendar had to do with the coming of Christ, I noticed they were not all called Advent calendars, some were honest enough to describe themselves as ‘ countdown calendars’. Yes, Advent is a countdown to the festival of Christmas, but it is not just a religious way of reminding us of how many shopping days are left until Christmas.
For the Christian Church Advent is about how we express the Christian hope, the hope that was made flesh at Christmas. Of course there are the usual mutterings that the real meaning of Christmas gets lost in a tide of materialism, that Advent and the festival of Christmas have been hijacked as marketing ploys. I have some sympathy with this view, after all there can be a feeling of sensory overload about Christmas- especially when the countdown seems to start in October. But I also think we have to be careful not to go too far in the opposite direction, to kill the expectation and hope of Advent and the joy of Christmas by being over censorious, and suggest that Advent and Christmas have nothing to do with the material world; because they do. Advent and Christmas are the most materialistic of the great Christian festivals- that is what Christmas is all about! For they are about God taking on human flesh and becoming one of us,-that’s what the word ‘incarnation’ means.
The Christian hope for which we wait in Advent and celebrate at Christmas is the hope for a better world, a world that works the way it should. Hope is one of the greatest driving forces of human life, and nothing succeeds like hopelessness in killing joy and quenching the human spirit. Give a person hope and they can achieve remarkable things; kill hope and kill joy and even the simplest things become difficult. The hope we wait for in Advent and celebrate at Christmas is that God’s kingdom will come, that God will come among us and help put the world to rights. And that is of course what we do celebrate. But while we might seem to expect Jesus to be some kind of comic book super hero who’ll come and sort things out in the way super heroes do, instead we find that Jesus comes as one of us. The challenge of the Advent hope and joy of Christmas is that God is asking us to join with him in making the world a better place by living out that hope in our daily lives, with joy and as part of the world not separate from it.
So when it finally arrives, have a joyful, peaceful and blessed Christmas.
Fr Tim

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