The Vicar writes…….
A few years ago I went on a curates’ exchange visit to Braunschweig in Germany which is twinned with Blackburn Diocese. The main church in Germany is the Lutheran Church and our hosts were curates or “vikarin”. They were part way through their 7 year training which sounded extremely arduous and demanding, with lots of exams, and I was extremely glad to have trained with the Church of England! The visit was just at the start of Advent and it was really interesting to experience some of the customs and traditions associated with that time of year.
I went into a local primary school where the children were getting ready for St Nicholas on the 6th December. They prepared little treats to exchange with their class mates, taking care that each child received a little bag of sweets. Plus they were all excited about the first Sunday in Advent because it was the start of the Christmas Markets, and part of their tradition was to go into Braunschweig on the Sunday afternoon and sample its delights. Craft stalls, food stalls with the most enormous German sausages, gluwein, stalls selling beautiful traditional Christmas decorations, candyfloss, the lot! Actually not sure about the candyfloss but certainly the sort of sweet treats that children enjoy were on offer. The market was very, very crowded and buzzing with life. We were not allowed to go home before we had sampled the German sausage!
One of the customs I particularly liked was that they decorated their homes with candles and lanterns and fairy lights. These weren’t Christmas decorations but symbolised the coming of the light in the darkness. I thought it was a really lovely way to mark Advent. Each candle and each light was a reminder of the light that was coming into the world. The Christ light that shines in the darkness. In the dark mornings and long evenings they were a cheery sight.
This year we are encouraging you to have a go with two on-line resources. The first is the Church of England’s “#Godwithus”. This encourages us to explore what the Christmas story might mean to each one of us. You can sign up to receive daily reflections and prayers and there’s also a booklet if you’d prefer that. The second is the Bible Society’s “Advent Challenge”. Again you need to sign up to receive daily challenges. This is a good one to do as a family. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of Christmas preparations that before you know where you are, you’re sitting down to your Christmas dinner and it’s all over for another year. Advent begs us to slow down and take stock of what we are preparing for – Jesus the light who dispels all darkness. These two resources should help us to do that.
However if those don’t appeal perhaps you too could light a candle or place a lamp in a dark corner in your home, or on a window sill to be visible to all, to remind you of the promised light of salvation that came with the birth of a baby and which forever shines in our lives. Make sure you light it each day and pray for God’s gifts of peace, joy and hope for you and your family. Just a few moments of stillness will help you not to lose sight of the reason for the season.
I pray that you will all have a peaceful, joyful and holy Christmas.
God bless, Angela