Sylvia’s Advent.

Reverend Felicity O’Brien

Sylvia’s Advent.

Sylvia sat in her usual pew in church – about three quarters of the way down the left hand side, and she listened to the children around her getting all excited about Christmas. She saw the frazzled faces of their parents, who frankly looked like the last thing they needed was to add the Children’s nativity play into their schedule, and she pondered about how she fitted in.

There seemed to be such a lot of hustle and bustle this year – the letterbox was overflowing with adds for things no one would buy for Christmas, unless they had unlimited money, and she didn’t know anyone like that. There were pictures of diamond rings for $5000, car accessories for cluttering up the garage, outdoor furniture for who knew what – a deck chair was all you needed in her day.

Sylvia started to remember her Advents in the early days, and realized that she had gone past the hustle and bustle stages. She remembered the end-of-year dance recitals, with three children in different shows, and rehearsals all week, with impossible to find costume requirements at the last minute. She remembered all the requests from school for plates of food, cans for food parcels, wrapped presents for secret Santas, and she was a bit relieved really that those days were over.

Mind you, her daughter seemed to be right in the thick of it this year, and Sylvia remembered that she had promised to go to the tap-dancing recital that weekend. Oh dear, must I? she asked herself. What a grandma does out of love…

Sylvia was feeling like Christmas was completely irrelevant – no Christmas parties, no complicated plans, just a few cards, and a few presents under her little tinsel tree.Then the deacon stood up, and started talking about John the Baptist.

Sylvia’s ears pricked up. Here was a man who was out in the wilderness in the leadup to Christmas! Now that had some appeal. No Santa stories, no Christmas lights, no plates, except maybe the odd insect platter –  just a man who was talking about getting our hearts ready for the coming of Jesus. Sylvia started to cheer up – that was something she could do, something that had been worrying her about all the busyness. There hadn’t seemed to be time any more to be quiet with God, and think about what it meant that God was coming to earth, as a baby, born to a teenage mum, in a borrowed stable, in an occupied land.

But the deacon was saying something else that caught her attention. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” A straight path –hmm…It wasn’t like the queue to see Santa at the mall, where she had taken little Jemma last week. Her granddaughter was so keen to see Santa, but after waiting for half an hour, in a queue that seemed to snake halfway to K-mart and back, the poor little thing was exhausted before she even got to sit on his knee, and burst into tears when he asked her if she had been a good girl.

No, the path God was taking wasn’t crooked and twisty – it was straight, direct. Surely you could look at Him as he came all the way down the path – you could catch a glimpse of God in the distance, and the vision would only get larger until he was right here with us. Yes, that’s what a straight path was about, thought Sylvia –much less complicated. Why did people have to make Christmas so fussy. Surely God coming to earth is a simple thing to understand – and yet so profound.

The reader was finishing “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Yes, thought Sylvia, that’s for me too. I’m part of ‘all flesh’. I might not be part of the hustle and bustle of the busy commercial world, and my house might not be lit up with half the national grid in Christmas lights, but I will see the salvation of the Lord!

And with that, Sylvia felt content, ready for Christmas. Because she knew that if it all got too much, she could find that wilderness place, and be alone with God as she waited for his coming.

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