I don't know about you but I really get annoyed when shops start stocking Easter Eggs before we've even got over Christmas; when shopping malls get all decorated up for Christmas in October with nearly three months to go!
So why am I talking about Lent, that season of the church calendar leading up to Easter, when I have hardly started my Christmas shopping?!?
Actually it's not so crazy if you consider that the season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, has quite a bit in common with Lent. Both are periods of preparation for momentous events in the Christian Church; one the Nativity of Christ, the other His Resurrection. Both may be used as periods of reflection, fasting, penitence, and an opportunity to explore and go deeper into our faith and what it means for us.
It is quite usual for Christian churches to organize Lent groups in the five weeks leading up to Easter for this very purpose. Sadly this is a less common practice in the Advent weeks running up to Christmas. And when enterprising priests have organized the same in our parish in years past the take-up has been far too low.
Instead these weeks between now and Christmas so often become quite simply an unseemly scramble as we buy too much, do too much, worry and fret too much, about what we are going to give each other as presents, what we are going to eat, where are we going to spend Christmas, whose parents should we visit this year, and so on. We get caught up in a a material world of unwanted gadgets and presents, a world of overindulgence and so on.
It is good to take time out from all of this and try to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world. So let's have more Advent courses and let's bring back the real meaning of Christmas. Let's bring Christ back into the equation.
My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.
"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden