Christmas is here! Well, not quite. In fact, Advent is here ... the time of preparation for Christmas.
The shops are full of displays trying to attract our attention. The television is awash with adverts. There is food and drink to buy - not just the everyday stuff, but all the extras we like to stock up on. There are gifts to buy: electrical goods, clothes and toys.
At home there are cards to write, presents to wrap, trees to decorate, food to prepare. There are school concerts and fetes to attend. There are office parties or meals to endure.
Advent is a whirl of preparation, of activity. And sadly for many that makes it not a time of joy but a time of stress.
In church we too are starting Advent, our time of preparation. My stole becomes purple; our Advent wreath makes its annual appearance, and as the weeks progress we light its candles counting down to Christmas.
As we draw closer and closer to Christmas Day a Christmas tree will appear, the church will be decorated. We will have a Christingle Service, a Toy-giving Service, a Candlelit Carol Service, a Crib Service.
These next weeks are a great time for the church, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of a child 2000 years ago. We wait for Christmas, acknowledging our failings, our shortcomings, and look to that coming child to show us the way.
Advent is all about preparation, in church and in the wider world. Use it wisely! Make sure your Christmas is a spiritual celebration as well as a social event. Let your Advent be a season of spiritual preparation, not just the all too familiar season of frenzied activity.