Night falls, the view from my study slowly fades to shadows, dark cut-outs against the evening sky.
Pinpricks of light, traffic on The Street, flash past; otherwise, all is still. The year grows old and darker days are drawing near. Although all is peaceful here tonight, I sense that this sums up the prevailing mood; an uncomfortable winter looms.
It came upon a mid-night clear, that glorious song of old. Peace on earth, good will to mankind”. So begins a well-known carol. But in a world where peace and good will are so conspicuously in short supply, do we hear that glorious song of old?
Advent; a season of preparation. Christmas is coming. Soon, decorations will be up; presents prepared, crib scenes dusted off; all to celebrate the birth of a child. Here, if only for a moment, we suspend our daily preoccupations, relax and enjoy the age-old story.
Nostalgia sells, and Christmas sells it in large handfuls. It is an interesting paradox that for the next 4 weeks, so many people (myself included) will look forward to an opportunity to look back to Christmas past; a world that never was. We will work our way through a host of essential preparations: are we ready for the carol/Christingle/crib service; are we ready for the visitors; are the presents wrapped; is the cake/pudding/turkey ready?
The carol that I quoted goes on to describe a familiarly weary world of Babel sounds, sin, strife and war. In short, a world so preoccupied with its own cares, it failed to notice the greatest gift of all. A world just like ours.
This is the amazing thing; knowing all this, God still came, and 2000 years later still cares. Centuries before Jesus the prophet Isaiah cried Prepare ye the way of The Lord . This Sunday’s gospel reminds us that the Son of Man will come again; without warning. As we work our way through all these essential preparations, are we prepared to meet him when he does? Advent, the time to prepare ‘the way of the Lord’.
Rev’d Philip Payne The Notice Sheet for Advent Sunday can be found here
 Forever Autumn – Justine Hayward
 It came upon a midnight clear – Edmund Sears 1849
 Isaiah 40: 3