Dear Friends

December starts in Church with the season of Advent - a period of expectation and preparation for the celebration of the coming ('adventus') of Christ at Christmas. In fact, Advent looks even further forward, since it also reminds us of Christ's final advent at the end of time (which, despite assurances that this will be a joyful consummation, we can tend to feel challenged by, perhaps reluctant to confront the idea of divine judgement?).

So, for many of us, Advent is a bitter-sweet time, set aside for prayerful vigilance and keeping watch - something that can be difficult to maintain over a four-week period, especially in the context of the frenetic commercialization of the festive season with which we are constantly bombarded. But it is not all doom and gloom, and, liturgically, there are many highlights, such as lighting the candles on the Advent wreath. And, on Advent Sunday itself, we shall be combining this with the very popular import from Moravia, the Christingle service - do join us, if you can, on Sunday, I December, at IO.OOam.

Here at St Mary's we decided to use Sarum blue for the altar frontal and legilium fall during Advent (a common practice in England before the Reformation, and still perpetuated in some parishes even today), rather than the more penitential purple, as our purple 'set' is very Lenten. And there is a further splash of colour on the third Sunday of Advent, when, as tradition demands, we have pink or rose-coloured vestments, signifying a slight relaxation of our Advent discipline.

In all these ways, we are helped in Church to prepare spiritually for the celebration of the great feast of the Incarnation, when we give thanks to God for sending his Son to be born amongst us as a vulnerable baby.

A very happy Advent and Christmas to you all.

Stephen