Friday morning was dark and cold so I called over to the local primary school where the heat and lighting was free to enjoy.
What I hadn’t realised was the staging of a Primary 4 Advent Assembly in the school hall, so out of curiosity I called in and spotted the principal.
I was slightly surprised he wasn’t dressed in red and shouting ho ho ho, but thankfully he wasn’t looking for a little helper, although I was asked to lead the children, staff and parents in prayer before the assembly began.
Firstly, the children were brilliant, which was a credit to their teacher, classroom assistant and the help they received at home.
Children have a great gift of being able to focus our minds on the true meaning of Christmas. Every day should be a school day and Friday morning was no different.
The boys and girls began by exploring the traditions of different cultures. It was explained how the Christians in China light their homes with colourful paper lanterns.
Christians in India decorate their homes with greenery, mango leaves, strings of light and the star of Bethlehem is hung inside their home.
In Sweden, their Father Christmas is called Tomte; an ugly gnome who only appears out of barns, or from under a building to deliver gifts.
His tiny sleigh is drawn by a magic goat and the gifts which are hidden throughout the house are wrapped in lots of paper to make opening the gift more of an event.
The advent wreath is a German tradition used to celebrate the coming of Christ, the light of the world. The wreath’s circular shape reminds Christians of God’s unending love which like a circle has no beginning or end. The evergreen leaves represent God’s everlasting love.
The five candles remind us how Jesus comes to spread his light to all corners of the world. In South and Central America people celebrate Navidad which is a nine day festival leading up to Christmas.
The people wear costumes and re-enact the Nativity Story by knocking on doors around the main squares of their towns and having the doors closed because the inns are full. A similar reaction happens when Fr Roland goes around carol singing!
On the ninth night they celebrate how Mary and Joseph were welcomed by God, the angels, and the shepherds and enjoy a great feast and then the entire family goes to the Church to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
As we prepare for Christmas it’s important to remember who we are preparing for as we re-tell the great events leading up to Christ’s birth.
In this Sunday’s gospel John the Baptist voice is heard asking all who are prepared to listen to prepare a way for the Lord. Advent is a season of opportunity to look at our lives in the light of God’s mercy and compassion.