When I was in the coffee shop opposite church this morning, one of the guys behind the counter asked me if I thought it was too early for them to have put up their Christmas decorations. It should be noted that the decs consist of three bunches of baubles - looking a bit like overgrown bunches of grapes - in a fairly tasteful, muted colour scheme.
Christmas decs before Remembrance is something I'm not keen on... let's be honest it took me about forty years to come to terms with them being up before my birthday! With supermarkets and chain stores filled with Christmas stuff since late August, with Starbucks and Greggs flogging their festive products, the precedents are clearly there - I reckon my local independent coffee shop is entitled to join in!
Anyway, when I get back from my lovely weekend away (now including the very, very exciting possibility of attending an ordination/induction for a genuine Scottish woman Baptist minister) we will be starting Advent a few days early, as this year the material I am adapting for our lunch time reflections has five parts. "Mother Roots" by Helen Bruch Pearson is a book looking at the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba before introducing us to Mary. With a 'scarlet thread' running right through it, we will have a very different approach to the Christmas season. I hope people enjoy and are inspired by it. Some years back I preached a series based on this book at Dibley, and it was evidently memorable for the right reasons!
Sundays will be based on David Adam's 'Candles in the Dark', a study guide for Advent which I used the first year I was at Dibley for lunch time reflections. I ought to note my gratitude to that little congregation who actually asked me for the Advent reflections, so much had they appreciated the Lent ones I'd dared to innovate soon after arriving! I am excited about this series of services because they are going to be a bit experimental, a bit multi-sensory, a bit interactive and a bit of a longer series, as the book carries us through to Epiphany (something I didn't achieve in Dibley where we used the first four studies only). Rather than lots of long sermons, we will be doing stuff together that, I hope, allows us to be open to hear God afresh, to slow down, to be excited and mystified.
So, a very busy Advent in prospect: I love these seasons so much, and long to make them special for others. I'm excited - hope others will be too.