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
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.
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