A few days ago I was wandering through a shopping precinct and looked at the many shop fronts that were decorated for the forthcoming festive season. One sign caught my eye. I thought it read “‘tis the season to be holy”. What a strange sign! As I stopped to read the sign more closely, I realised that it was just written in fancy cursive and really read “‘tis the season to be jolly”.
I went on my way and I wondered how different the season would be if in Advent people did reflect more on the reason for the season, and possibly even think about holiness. Now, holiness is a big word that is often avoided today, even in Methodist circles, where it once was on everybody’s lips. Essentially it means that we allow the Holy Spirit to mould us so that we become more like the people God intends us to be. That means that our mind and our actions become more and more determined by God’s values and less by the values of the world. Depending on the culture those values are not always diametrically opposed, but they often can be. It seems that in our culture the main pre-Christmas activities are concerned with buying and consuming as much as possible. Those activities are clearly not conducive to holiness.
The original intention of the Advent season was as a time of preparation for Christmas, when we remember the coming of God amongst us humans. A key part of that season was repentance and through that holiness. It was meant as a time to be quiet, examine our lives and concentrate on what brings real value. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a sombre time; it can be full of anticipation and then joy.