Monday 23 December 2013

Long Have We Waited

The long wait is nearly over. Days have passed like years in this all-too-expansive winter season.

The countdown that began so long ago is almost at an end.

What started as a gentle interest has now turned into an all-consuming longing.

The naysayers may pour scorn but we ignore them in our collective obsession.

Prayers are offered to bring the fated day nearer but still we must wait a little longer.

It has seemed at times as if it would never come. And yet soon it will.

All else is set aside, for nothing now is as important as this.

This day is a time for family, and it is only fitting that families will be brought together for the occasion.

Soon the blessed day will appear and the memory of waiting will be at an end.

That's right. The new season of Sherlock is almost upon us.

I may be overstating things a little. Nevertheless, it struck me at the start of the advent season that what I was most anxious for in December wasn't Christmas (or, by extension, the celebration of God being with us) but Sherlock. Advent is supposed to be about waiting. It's supposed to be a season of anxious longing. When we remember that there was once a time before Jesus came. When we contemplate what it's like to be in need of Jesus before welcoming Him on Christmas Day. Of course, most of our society has abandoned advent altogether in favour of an extended, all-out public holiday. This is not necessarily a bad thing but I believe that there's something to be gained in returning to the spirit of advent.

There have been times this advent when I've been completely unenthusiastic about Christmas. I'm sorry. I feel like I'm letting the side down in even admitting that. I've certainly felt exhausted and in need of the rest that Christmas brings. That part I value. But I've also been disillusioned, at times, by the whole enterprise of Christmas - by the church services, by the parties, by the preparations. I don't want to bring out here the much-repeated, and well deserved, critique against how the season has turned into a capitalist money-spinner. My issue is instead with my (lack of) enthusiasm for Christmas.

Advent is as good a time as any to reexamine what it is that we really care about. What are our priorities in life? What do we value? And are we doing a good enough job at prioritising those things above the trivial? I found that Sherlock was way too far up the list. Series two ended dramatically with Sherlock faking his own death by jumping from a high-rise building. Two years have passed. Two! You may not care about Sherlock but in that case you are part of a pitifully small group of people and can be discounted. (I jest). Part of the attraction of the new series lies in the intelligent, dynamic and deliciously entertaining television that Sherlock always manages to produce. Yet the bigger draw is potentially the revelation of how Sherlock faked his death. Millions have been gripped by the conundrum of how Sherlock pulled off the impressive stunt. The news of how he did it will be a revelation.

And yet some news, which is genuinely more important, is already out there. It is fundamentally good . It is life-changing. It is much more deserving of our excitement. It is the news that we are not alone. It is the news that we don't have to guess what God's like because He has revealed Himself to us. It's the news that God isn't 'out there, man'; He's knowable because He wants us to know Him. It is the news that God is on our side. It is the news that God saw the mess of our world and was willing to do something about it. It is ultimately the news that God was willing to die to give us life. That counts as being "good news that will be a joy to all the people" (Luke 2:10; see also Isaiah 52:7).

There's nothing special about advent unless we're intentional about it. Yet in advent, as always, we get to refocus on what deserves our attention. What could warrant our interest more than that kind of God?

I'm praying that your Christmas is exciting for all the right reasons.

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