Children give themselves over to the enchantment of the Advent Season: the coloured lights, music, special foods; the delicious anticipation of Christmas. As a child I loved the majestic hymns of Advent; the rich purple of the Church’s vestments; the fragrance of pine boughs; lessons and carols for Advent Sunday; the expectation of visiting family and friends; the familiar words and actions of a Christmas Pageant done by the Church School; the preparation of cleaning and decorating. December was a lovely time—a“magic” wonderful time. I am happy to say I still enjoy those things.
Perhaps the Christian Church can help our society to experience enchantment with God and that which is godly. Our society is too frequently marked by cynicism, anxiety, and relentless striving. For many, Advent is just a time of more obligatory parties, exorbitant spending, decorating out of a sense of duty with no pleasure—a time of weariness. The message of Advent is God’s love—love realized in God’s desire to be part of our lives. As we wait in joyful expectation to welcome “love divine, all love’s excelling, joy of heav’n, to earth come down”, Advent reminds us that each of us is a cherished member of God’s universal family. Advent reminds us with a powerful clarity that we are created to be bearers of light; to create beauty that shall delight; to be healers; to give encouragement; to build-up, not deface.
The enchantment which Advent offers is poetic; this is the lovely essence of the hymns and other music of the season, and of the scripture readings; the stories which have special meaning for us in Advent. Poetry can both enchant and inform. The writer Evelyn Underhill puts is this way:
“Moreover, poetry both enchants and informs, addressing its rhythmic and symbolic speed to regions of the mind which are inaccessible to argument, and evoking movements of awe and love which no exhortation can obtain. It has meaning at many levels, and welds together all those who use it; overriding their personal moods and subduing them to its grave loveliness.”
Advent provides opportunity for the Church to share the rich poetry of the birth of the Christ to our society. The gift of sacred poetry can bring healing to a weary, cynical, and stressed out people. How delightful to allow oneself to be enchanged by God’s love.
Great and gracious God, from the beginning you have spoken to us, and now, your eternal Word has made a dwelling among us, changing the shadows of our earthly being into the bright morning of heaven’s glory.
Let us receive your Christ again in faith and hope, so that we and all who welcome him may know the wonder of being called your children.
We ask this in his name, who is one with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.
(from Celebrating the Christian Year)