Richard Coles on Advent

Richard Coles, curate at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, comments on how Advent is getting lost in our culture:

Christianity often produces in its adherents a feeling of exile. We are called to live in the world while not being of the world, or not quite, and for most of the year the sense of being out of step with others is acute. The feeling grows – having stood for centuries at the centre of communities, today we can feel as quaint as wool shops.

. . .

I suspect even the jolliest vicar at Christmas feels like an accountant at the end of the tax year. This is not simply fatigue, but frustration with the gap between what we think we are doing and what those unwonted full houses think they are doing. The last verse of O Come All Ye Faithful, which begins: “Yea Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning”, is meant to be sung on the morning of Christmas Day. This year, I sang it at tea time on Thanksgiving Day, which is not only premature, but completely out of synch with the mood of the season, not Christmas, but Advent.

Advent is traditionally a period of self-examination, reflection and repentance and even in our present economic circumstances, when many have had self-examination, reflection and repentance thrust upon them, that character of feast following fast is lost in the hysterical merriment which now seems to start just after Wimbledon. Advent’s mood persists in carols that are nevertheless belted out with cheerful gusto, telling of berries red as blood and the bleak midwinter and Herod the king in his raging; cognitive dissonance, surely?

I hope so. How can Christianity be anything other than an experience of cognitive dissonance, construing meaning from the seeming randomness of existence, insisting we can only live fully when we renounce any hope of fulfilment, and focusing our attention, year after year, on a newborn child, helpless in a manger, in whom the power which lit the stars and formed us out of dust is fully present, a child born to die so we may live.

Read it all here.

Past Posts