Today is the first day of Advent, the period of 4 weeks when we prepare our hearts for Christ’s arrival at Christmas. The difference between Advent and Christmas can be confusing to people who seem to be putting up Christmas decorations earlier and earlier in our country; it’s also confusing as the Christian calendar always has the Advent period starting 4 Sundays before Christmas Day, yet Advent calendars only start on 1st December!

Traditionally, the church links four main themes with the four weeks of Advent: hope, peace, love and joy, and in these daily thoughts throughout Advent, we will be looking at those four themes as we reflect on the many Biblical passages associated with Christmas. I’m always mindful that even today, not everyone knows the Christmas story. Some have heard only snippets and have, perhaps, a distorted view of Christmas because of the many different influences absorbed from different traditions and cultures. The best way to prepare for Christmas is to read (again or for the first time) what the Bible actually has to say about this and to look again at what it means to welcome Jesus into our world and into our own families and into our own hearts.

A new arrival in any family will bring upheaval and there must be preparation. Perhaps this is one reason pregnancy lasts nine months: to give us time to adjust to the tumultuous changes any baby brings to a family and to prepare as best we can for this miraculous addition! As we prepare our hearts for Christ’s arrival, we reflect on the role of preparation in life. Even God spent time preparing for Christmas; we will read about the arrival of John the Baptist before Jesus, whose role it was to ‘prepare the way for the Lord.’ (Matthew 3:3) Before hope can arrive, we must prepare our hearts.