Looking Forward to Looking Forward
The best way to begin to get ready for Christmas
Those of you who, as I did, attended a particular kind of English boarding school, will know that we are not in the Autumn Term of the school year but are in fact in Michaelmas Term. It should not surprise us that our University and Public School education system, founded supported and staffed for centuries by monks and nuns, follows the church’s year. After all there is a reason why it is called the Gregorian calendar J. However the Church itself has struggled to work out what happens in this time between the end of summer and the advent of, well Advent.
This ‘season’ has taxed the minds of Church liturgists down the ages. Is it Michaelmas or All Souls, the Kingdom Season or the lately touted Creationtide? Certainly much happens in the weeks between the end of summer and the opening of the first door of our Advent Calendars. Harvest, Half-term Holiday Club, Hallowe’en, All Souls, All Saints, Guy Fawkes, Armistice and Remembrance: a long list of special Sundays for which to plan. And all this without the added complication of having a few Franciscans on our clergy team who want to do weird and wonderful things in October as well!
The closer you get to the Arctic Circle, the winter sun rising to give shorter days and longer nights, the more important becomes the way we celebrate and care for our community. The natural world hibernates; we put on the fire, stock our pantries and hunker down until the light begins to return at the Winter Solstice. Little wonder that the church chose the time when the sun returns to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. We all need good news in the middle of ‘the bleak midwinter’.
Perhaps this is why so much happens in the run-up to Advent and Christmas (which if the chain stores are to be believed begins soon after the August Bank Holiday), and we find ourselves on a quest to find a name for this season of ‘looking forward to looking forward’.
In our regular worship, and in the events we host at this time of year, we are given a wonderful opportunity to welcome those who are ‘looking forward to looking forward’. Unlike the Innkeeper at Bethlehem, who seemed to be woefully unprepared for the influx of visitors for the census, we already know that over the coming weeks and months many people will visit us to have a ‘look-see’ at our preparations and how we are ‘looking forward to looking forward’.
This is the time to ensure that, whatever we do we are ready for them. We must not, like the Innkeeper, send our visitors to sleep in a draughty barn. If we do we may find we have literally thrown out the baby with the bath water.
Michaelmas or All Souls, Kingdom Season or Creationtide whatever we call this time of ‘looking forward to looking forward’ lets make sure it is always, for everyone who finds their way to the doors of our churches for whatever reason, a Season of Welcome.
PAX et BONUM – Andrew
(This article was originally published in the October 2017 edition of the magazine of the Parish of Felixstowe).
© Andrew Dotchin 2017