The Advent Calendar – often of the sort that dispenses chocolate – has become a good seller. In The Christmas Mystery, Jostein Gaarder tells of a boy, Joachim, who buys a rather special Advent Calendar: each day as he opens the window in the picture, a small scroll of paper falls out, each relating part of the story of a girl whose toy lamb suddenly comes to life and rushes out into the street. Pursuing it, girl finds herself going back in time to Bethlehem, meeting en route, one by one, the characters in the Christmas story who join in the journey.
The story is given further depth and mystery by the way in which it intersects with what is happening in the boy’s life: past and present connect. It is also given urgency by Joshua the shepherd who, when characters are pausing to argue and explain (the wise men and particularly difficult in this regard!), strikes his crook on the ground and cries, “To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!”
As we draw nearer Christmas Day, we often become more frantically active: so much to do, so little time and in the course of these few days leading to Christmas, we will meet many people, some very busy with no time to pause, and others who will want to stop and talk when it is us who are anxious to hurry on. But perhaps we should ask – where are we hurrying? What is the urgency? Do we know? And in these people we meet, often only briefly in passing in the street, in the shops, is it possible that we can imagine them travelling to Bethlehem? Surely Mary and Joseph must have passed all sorts and conditions of folk; shared the time of day or perhaps a meal with busy people just like those we see. Through the ages, we connect in our shared humanity.
As you go about today, or as you look out of your window, be more aware of that shared humanity, and pray for the people you see – a simple way is to recite the Lord’s Prayer in your mind, or the words of a carol that’s special to you as you watch, drawing the crowds together with you and with God.
In The Christmas Mystery, Joachim’s mother said, “The real Christmas night happened only once, but that Christmas night resulted in Christmas over the whole world.”
“That’s because the glory of heaven spreads so easily,” said Joachim. “I think it must be infectious.”
And there’s no better place for spreading infections than in a crowd!
May your kingdom come….. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.