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The long hello

Our Christmas lights in Crieff have been turned on. The Black Friday sales have come and partly gone. Traditions new and old seem to urge us on to the long month of Christmas before…Christmas. Nativity plays have been brought forward into November because, well, coming up to Christmas people are far too busy for…Christmas. There’s no point in singing the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ because by the time we’ve finished the thirty days of Christmas, we’re all fed up with…Christmas.

For years I railed against this. As adverts started in September and Christmas trees went up in October, I metaphorically shook my fist at the radio and TV; now, not so much. I understand why people do all this.

We are all getting busier. I was ordained at 24 and thought that I was working hard as a curate. Now thirty years on I seem to be working harder than ever (I heard that you can now decide your age, so I’m still 24).

Fitting things in is not so easy and routine doesn’t exist for many of us. Planning is generally a good idea and, let’s face it, November into December can be miserable: it’s good to have something more pleasant to look forward to.

Lots of people here in St Fillan’s and St Margaret’s are using this time to carol sing, bag pack, run Christmas sales, have collection boxes for goods and money and so raise money for charity. It’s not all a headlong rush to consume. Many of us are eager to give.

So, I’m now more at ease with the ‘long hello’ to Christmas. Maybe that’s a phrase that describes Advent quite well, the ‘long hello’. Can I also suggest that the ‘long hello’ is quite a useful phrase for thinking about the word ‘welcome’?

For a variety of reasons, we can all be wary of others. We like to think that we are welcoming but our experience can teach us to be cautious. We still like to think that we would help in an emergency, and many of us would. Here in Strathearn, we live in small communities and people tend to be more willing to say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’…but…

The first definition of the word ‘welcome’ that is given in most dictionaries is ‘to be pleased about, encourage, or give support to.’ There’s an implication that our hearts are open and rejoice in another person or in an event. It’s more than just an exchange of greetings or stopping to help someone up.

Prayer and Meditation Suggestion

Think of a couple of events that are coming up. They might be pleasurable; they might not be. We might be dreading them, or we might be looking forward to them. How can we welcome them?

If you can, read the gospel for this coming Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, Luke 21, 25-28; 34-36.

A lot of it is pretty grim reading but there are two sentences in there I would like you to think about:

“When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”
“Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”

Whatever is happening this week, try to face them and bring them to Christ. Mull over those words, “liberation” and “confidence”. In these events, Christ is present. He might not be coming on the clouds of heaven, but he is there present in each of these events.

Welcome him, for he is there. Perhaps even use those words, or something similar, over and over again repeating them to yourself for a few minutes each day, “Welcome, Jesus! Welcome, Jesus!” Pay attention to your heart as the week goes on.

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