BBC Radio 4:Rev Dr Rob Marshall - 02/12/2017


Good Morning. Tomorrow is Advent Sunday. The first candle of Advent will be lit in cathedrals and churches across the country. It is, without doubt, my favourite season of the Christian year.

The theologian Walter Brueggemann argues that Advent, above all, is a time for getting ready: “Getting ready time is not mainly about busy activity, entertaining and fatigue,” he writes, but it’s “mainly abrasive” in that it’s about “asking, thinking, pondering and redeciding”. By “abrasive” he means making a conscious and often uncomfortable decision to rebalance our lives.

As we run around today buying trees, gifts, food shopping and all the rest of it – on top of everything else we’re dealing with – it can seem overwhelming. What complicates matters further is the fact that many of us are increasingly challenged by what we might call our digital lives.

Nick Harkaway, who has looked in some detail at the effects of the digital world on the human mind, talks of information overload as “a small parcel of sins, of which the first is the noise of the mind.”

The symptoms are many and varied. Affecting all ages and particularly the young. Addiction. An inability to switch off. A constant barrage of meaningless trivia. No boundaries between work and home. How do you start to really get ready for anything, never mind finally accomplish it? Aren’t we in a perpetual state of getting ready these days?

We risk allowing our minds to be so surrounded by noise and clutter that we fail to hear the voices of those closest to us or those who need our love and care. The question is – what can we do about it? For Christians, a period of set time, like Advent, aims to provide boundaries to carve out time for the space we crave --and to stick at it!

For in the midst of all the often manic activity of people’s lives, and I hear this often and not just from people in church, folk are increasingly recognising that they do need to be more abrasive in carving out time to be who they really are. That’s why meditation, mindfulness and retreats have never been more popular. They give people time to breathe.

And so instead of being in a perpetual state of getting ready so as not being really ready for anything – I am going to try to be abrasive with my use of time between now and Christmas. Turn the phone off. Do a bit of thinking. Spend more time in conversation. Try to be who I really am. That’s certainly the intention of my first Advent candle tomorrow.

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