I love Advent, despite the dark overtones of death, judgement, heaven and hell. Meditating on the theme of looking for, waiting for God to reveal himself in the turbulence of this mortal life, is what appeals to me. The newlyweds weren't there, having gone to Venice for the weekend - it must be the shortest version of the Grand Tour imaginable, but even 48 hours in Venice is worth the effort if you have the time and money to break routine with. At the end of the day I mailed them a copy of the sermon they'd miss - just for fun.
For me it was not an easy day, eight o'clock and nine thirty Eucharists at St John's, then a tense trip through the Sunday shoppers traffic, slowed down by hunting for car parks, to reach Tredegarville School to open up and welcome people for the once monthly morning Eucharist. After lunch, a brief respite then back to the school for the second service of the day, the regular four o'clock. I was grateful that my colleague Chris was there to preach, making it easier than it would be alone. Then, back to St John's through the darkened streets for the Advent service of lessons and carols, conducted by candlelight. This went well, and there were nearly ninety people present altogether, more than in recent years, probably because our advertising has improved somewhat, bringing in more passers-by than usual. We were finished by seven thirty, and I was greatly relieved to shed the weight of the great blue processional cope which is worn on such special occasions, the fatigue and stimulus of recent days catching up on me.
It's good that the hard work put in by our singers is rewarded by a decent attendance, although even these special occasions have but a fraction of the attendance they had a decade ago. I confess that sometimes I would prefer not to have to consider such things as numbers. In fact, I'd prefer a decent retreat at this time of year, like the one on Advent Sunday weekend in 1963 when as a young University Freshman, my encounter with 'the God who comes' in the mystery of prayerful silence and emptiness sealed my destiny as a pilgrim disciple of Christ, and eventual priest. Leading such a full life as I do in this job, when I find I need most of all is that empty silence to nourish my soul. Nothing else works quite the same.