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'Long time ago in Bethlehem...'

In a series of Advent articles, Rosemary Dawson picks up on the words of Christmas songs

Some people will still be dashing around to the very end

HARK, now hear! The time left for Christmas shopping is quickly dis­appearing. Should we panic, emigrate or start making some lists?

If you’re one of those super organ­ised human beings, you’re probably well ahead of the frenzied shopping season that Christmas has become. Some people will even have bought this year’s cards in the January sales and written them out all ready to post this month.

But for most of us, it’ll be the usual mad scramble to get ready and make our way through a to-do list that may include writing cards, decorating the tree and buying a turkey.

This four-week Advent season is the forerunner to Christmas, which isn’t actually about turkeys, tinsel or red-nosed reindeers. It’s about the coming of God’s Son to earth to show humankind a better way of living.

Think of Advent as a preparation for the main event – the biggest birthday party of all time, to which everyone is invited.

Of course, some people will still be dash­ing around to the very end, however long they’ve been preparing. And that’s what happened when Jesus was born. Many people still weren’t ready, and they’d had centuries to prepare for the coming of God’s promised Messiah. It was written in their Scriptures, but it wasn’t in their hearts and minds.

Meanwhile, God, the greatest party-planner ever, had been quietly setting things in place, choosing the right time and the right people to help spread the good news about Jesus’ coming.

Yes, it was a long time ago in Bethlehem that ‘Mary’s boy child, Jesus Christ, was born on Christmas Day’, as the song reminds us. But it’s no less relevant for our world today than it was then.

How will we celebrate? It’s time to get ready.

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