I'm sure that many of us have had this experience! Sat in the Lodge waiting for the meeting to begin and out of the corner of your eye you see the DC walking briskly towards you. "Would you mind doing me a huge favour? So and so hasn't turned up. Would you be prepared to do this that or the other?!" A DC's lot is not a happy one! In the circumstances what can he do? Someone has to do it, and he thinks that you're the best brother to do the work. You should be flattered, but you just hope that you can do it well enough. If only you had a little time to prepare you know that you could do it so much better, and with a lot less angst!
While some things are best sprung upon us, in the main we like to have time to prepare. To consider the task ahead of us, perhaps to look at the plans, to measure and ascertain so that we are clear in our mind what we have to do, and how we are going to go about it. If we start anything without thinking things through, it will be more by luck than judgement if it turns out well! It is important that we have a sure foundation on which to build.
That said we don't always have the opportunity to plan ahead. In those circumstances what is most important? To do what we can to the best of our ability and offer assistance to another in need? Or flatly decline and let the lot fall to another? If something is truly not within our gift or ability then we have no option but to decline, but if we can help out surely we are taught to willingly assist - even if we don't really want to!
There are other things that we can't anticipate or plan ahead for - like the DC's plea for help! However there are some things that we can see coming from a distance, and 'if God spare life' we will have to negotiate. The Anglican year comes to an end on the Sunday before Advent, and a new year begins on the First Sunday in Advent which this year falls on 29th November.
For Christians Advent is a time of eager anticipation and preparation.
During Advent Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Word became flesh, Emmanuel - God with us. That coupled with Easter is the greatest Christian festival. Christians are also encouraged at that time to prepare for Jesus' second coming in to the world at the end of the present age, and to reflect on their own mortality against the backdrop of God's history of salvation. It always strikes me how very different the Christian run up to Christmas is compared to the secular preparations, and I'm saddened by how often the secular preparations not only marginalise Christian preparations, but stifle them.
In order to prepare effectively, we need to think carefully about how we are going to prepare. Before an Architect begins to prepare a plan or a draft, he needs to have a vision or an idea about what it is that he intends to create. He can't just sit down with this tools and begin to draw, no more the craftsman begin his work without a plan.
So while Advent is the season of preparation, now is the time to start thinking about how we are going to prepare during this time. As with Lent, the other great season of preparation, we are encouraged to give something up and/or do something extra. Food or drink are common sacrifices - so different to the gluttony encouraged by the advertisers! In terms of doing something extra, there are good online resources available as well as printed material, one benefit of the age of the consumer is the great choices we have in so many things. Simple acts of having an Advent calendar or candle can be meaningful, although these only count down the days of December of course. Taking a bit more time to think, to pray, to read the Holy Bible - it need not be fancy or elaborate. Think about what might help you prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Ordinarily I refuse to think about Christmas until the beginning of Advent, let alone start talking about it! This year has broken almost every other rule so why not this one?! It does sadden me when I hear people saying that Christmas is only a day, and on Boxing Day that it's good to have it over and done with for another year! I always think that they have not prepared properly for Christmas, and that is why it is such a disappointment, such an anti-climax.
Advent this year is going to be very different. Christmas this year is going to be very different. What we celebrate is the same. The message is the same. During the next few days I encourage you to think about how you are going to prepare yourself during Advent to celebrate Christmas, so that you may derive comfort from knowing that God became man, and joy that He was born to die for us, that we might have life eternal.
This hymn was written by Frances R Havergal (1836-79) who live for a while in Caswell Bay, Swansea before her death in Oystermouth. She described the hymn as a "self consecration to Christ":
Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from thee.
Take my silver and my gold,
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect, and use
every power as thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
take my heart, it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.
I offer this prayer:
Keep us, O Lord, while we tarry on this earth, in a serious seeking after thee, and in an affectionate walking with thee, every day of our lives; that when thou comest, we may be found not hiding our talent, nor serving the flesh, nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished, but waiting and watching and longing for our Lord, our glorious God for ever and ever.