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The Christmas Pudding

I am thinking of calling my Christmas pudding “John” First of all he was stirred up, leaping in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary came to visit and then there was a period of waiting - a long bubbling on the hob topping up the water frequently checking that there had been no leaks in these formative hours and now it is in the wilderness in the back of my cupboard, along with rarely used casserole dishes, jam jar lids, a lonely rubber glove and a tin of dubbin. Some time in my mother’s life she had, somehow, got ahead in the Christmas pudding business so her pudding would wait a full year before emerging.

For John came out of the wilderness where he had been waiting for the right moment - notice how precise Luke is about the time: ”In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius” and to be sure there is no mistake he surrounds the date with corroborating information about who the other important people who were in post at the time. Coming out of the wilderness has its own significance echoing the song of the Jews in exile whose long wait was coloured by deep sadness. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept.” (Psalm 137) They were in the wilderness of despair.

But there was a promise of a servant to come, to be found in the words of Isaiah “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people” says your God. Now ringing in many of our ears are the sounds of Handel’s Messiah : “Every valley shall be exalted.” Here is the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,. We are living in the “in-between” times; Jesus the suffering servant pierced for our transgressions has come and is restored to heaven and we wait now for his coming again.

And during Advent we reflect on this waiting in this wilderness of our time. It has a special quality this waiting, this expectancy, all the more so for we do not know the day or the hour. But because of that it is not idle, we are preparing, learning, discerning maturing our understanding of the Lord’s ways so that we will be ready.

So, I imagine was John in the wilderness, learning, discerning, and maturing waiting for the moment when his time had come to proclaim the beginning of Jesus’ ministry - John burst suddenly on the scene baptising crowds in the Jordan exhorting them to be ready.

But wait, there is something more - we are to be alert and watchful and getting ready for something that we really want. This might need some thinking about. There are elements of our ideas about the end of the world which put me in mind of that saying “Lord make me holy good and prudent in all things but not yet.” the fundamental Advent prayer though is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Our Lord Come.” cried out from our wilderness as earnestly as the Israelites from theirs and as John cried out from his.

And why because of the joy we believe in. My pudding - John - is waiting and hopefully maturing in its wilderness and I remember that for my mother the Christmas pudding was the best part of Christmas lunch; I can see her glowing cheeks, shining eyes and real joy of anticipation as her spoon digs into the rich dark comforting fruit-laden aromatic mixture. It was as if she had waited all year for it.

Amen


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