Advent, a season of joyful expectation before Christmas, begins Nov. 29 this year. The Advent wreath, with a candle marking each week of the season, is a traditional symbol of the liturgical period. (CNS photo/Lisa A. Johnston, St. Louis Review)

In many dictionaries the first definition of Advent refers to the coming of something or someone important, for example the advent of the computer. I don’t know what that says about the compilers of dictionaries, whether they are merely reflecting the spirit of the age, or whether the second definition that it is the liturgical period before Christmas is an offshoot of the first. It is a period, according to the dictionary, observed by many Christians as a season of prayer, fasting and penitence. I’m all for prayer and now is a good time to pray for your friends and neighbours and consider who you may invite to come with you to carol services or to come carol singing.

Fasting I’m not so good with, except between 8 in the evening and 7 in the morning, but if you fast now you will have more forgiving scales after the turkey and plum pudding. Penitence is always good, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” I’m rather good at the self deception, however, “if we confess our sin God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Advent may also refer to the return of Jesus for the last judgement. Are you ready for that? I’m not suggesting that “The Angel of Death” is going to visit you any sooner than he may visit me, but have you got your bag packed, is your passport in order and are you ready to say, “here am I” when the roll is called? You may be like my grandmother who was told by her doctor that she was likely to tell “Old Shaggy” to s** o**. Eventually death did call on my Grandmother.

There are other reasons for being ready. Some years ago I told a group that they should make their peace, repair bridges and seek accommodations with those from whom they were estranged, now, as they did not know how long they may have to seek that reconciliation. One of my listeners came back to me about a week later, almost in tears, he had heeded my words and sought out a colleague with whom he had had a falling out and they were reconciled. Three days later that colleague had been killed in a road accident. “‘It is not for [us] to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” “‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.’”

When you are reconciled you may then go, with a clear conscience and have a Happy Christmas.

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