An invitation to advent- a personal pandemic reflection

I am going to say this out loud ( well in print), I struggle with Christmas, not with the incarnate Christ, the wonderful revisiting of the divine story of God revealed in human flesh, but with the trappings of what Christmas has become. There is so much pressure to create a perfect day, to buy the right gift, to eat the right food etc. Now I know that I don’t need to fall for all of the commercialism and pressure, but it is hard to ignore!

Added to the Christmas pressure this year of course is the very real problem of a global pandemic, and at this moment in time in England a national lockdown, a lockdown that has a little more realism to it than the former one, where I truly believe we hoped that 12 weeks would see us through the worst of the pandemic, and that we might get back to normal! There were other hopes too, we began to see what just a few weeks of less pollution would achieve, with clearer skies and seas, and there were hopes that we would change our ways, but all of this was short lived, and there was a rush and pressure to get back to the way we have always been, or as near to it as possible.

In the first lockdown there was hope, and a lot of talk about change, this second lockdown seems to be grounded in a darker place, even though we have news of a possible vaccine the hope does not seem to be there in the same way. I am aware that this all sounds very negative, and that I am sounding like the Grinch, but I guess that I am simply sharing how I am feeling. The truth is I am struggling, on dark nights it is easy to completely withdraw into myself, and as someone who is prone to depression I have had to admit that, that has begun to loom large. Bad habits creep in, not getting out to exercise, eating rubbish, neglecting to care for myself in body mind and spirit, and a downward spiral begins. It becomes easy too, especially living alone, as I do, to wallow in self pity, so I am thankful to friends who called me out on this, and have decided to stop, and to recapture something lost, a sense of mystery, awe, wonder and connectedness, to be aware that God chooses to make her home not just with me, but in and through me!

So, I am choosing to refocus and recentre, to look forward to celebrating Christmas in its truest sense, and to look for wonder and engage with awe. So, I have decided to follow a Celtic Advent path, Celtic Advent lasts for 40 days, with a theme of preparation, it follows the tradition of Celtic Saint like Cuthbert, Cademon, Hild and others who before setting out on any new venture, be it a journey of founding a community, would commit themselves to prayer and fasting for 40 days, the fasting being in 3 day cycles. I will follow a morning and evening prayer rhythm, alongside this I am going to try to get out into creation to walk every day come rain or shine, and to commit to eating properly ( no more junk food). I need to do that anyway as I wait for a gallbladder operation, but this is about finding wholeness again, as I have said, body, mind and spirit.

I guess you could say that I am choosing to choose life, choosing to get out of my own head and to focus on the stories of the Celtic Saints, and to learn from them, their prayer practices were often extreme, I can say now that you won’t find me standing waist deep in the sea or climbing to a cave with a stone bed and pillow, but I am hoping that learning with and from them that I will be approaching the Christmas season, and life itself in a different way., to enter into the deep mystery of it. Ray Simpson calls us to be aware of the mystery afresh:

The full expression of the Divine One- the Word- took on the weakness, the finiteness, and limitation of human flesh, This paradox is the threshold into a new understanding of Reality.

A paradox is a mystery, something we cannot explain with rational logic. It is a concept that does not yield easily to the linear thinking of the patriarchy; it requires a more inclusive, all embracing attitude… (Ray Simpson- Prepare the Way)

I want to share my journey, so, if you would like join me, I will be sharing prayers and reflections on a Facebook Group Christmas 2020 and uploading them to my YouTube Channel on both of these your comments would be welcome, Celtic Advent begins tomorrow the 16th November.

Finally then a prayer of preparation:

Among the hungry, among the homeless, among the friendless,

Come to make things new…

Among the powerful, among the spoilt, among the crooked,

Come to make things new…

In halls of fame, in corridors of power, in forgotten places

Come to make things new

With piercing eyes, with tender touch, with cleansing love,

Come to make things new…

(Ray Simpson- Prepare the Way)

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About Sally C

How do I describe myself, I am not what I do, (I am a Methodist Minister), I am not who I am related to (I have 5 wonderful children, 2 lovely granddaughters and a grandson). I am a seeker truth, a partaker of life in all it's fullness and a follower, sometimes stumbling, sometimes celebrating of the Christian pathway. I seek wholeness, joy and a connectedness to all things through a deep reconciliation with the God whose love blows my socks off!
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