By Angela Hughes

I have an abiding memory, going back a good few years, of an Autumn walk through one of Leeds amazing parks.  It was damp, a nip of frost in the air, the sun low in the sky and in the distance a low murmur of children playing.  Suddenly, loud and clear a voice rang out, ‘Coming, ready or not!’

The words – familiar yet new – sent a tingle down my spine.  There was a sense of anticipation, expectancy and apprehension.  ‘Coming, ready, or not!’

A child’s simple game of hide and seek – perhaps – but the cry (to my well-tuned ears) had an ominous Advent message.

‘Coming ready or not!’

Advent, in today’s society, is mostly treated as an advance celebration of Christmas – marked by Peppa Pig Calendars – chocolate – and an encouragement to prepare for the big day.  And this year with the added encouragement to buy our gifts and order our turkeys in good time – to ‘save Christmas’.

But of course the season of Advent is so much more than this.  As Christian people Advent calls us to concentrate not upon the first, but upon the second coming of Christ – however we may understand it.  Those first disciples believed it was imminent and they had a sense of urgency that over the generations has been lost.

We may speak glibly about this Kingdom of God – the Reign of Christ – God’s Shalom – whatever words reflect our own understanding.  We may reflect upon the life, death and resurrection of Christ and ponder that it was this Kingdom Jesus lived and preached and came to show us.  We may further reflect that this is a kingdom not just for some distant tomorrow but also for today.

And it is this truth that imbues me with that sense of urgency – that causes that tingle in the spine – ‘Coming, ready or not’.

I don’t need to list the woes and chaos of our current world – social media ensures we are aware.  But I do believe we all need to be reminded of that clear Advent message which comes again year on year.  A message that speaks clearly into our current world and that must keep us in the here and now of each day.

This Kingdom of God is not an abstract visionary dream but rather it is the quite disturbingly definite and unforgivingly specific rule of God in the lives of his people.  It is a kingdom that is realised as God’s will is done in the lives of men and women and as his Spirit is welcomed into the stories of real people.

May this Advent be a time of waiting in which we deliberately pay attention to God’s ongoing and life-changing presence.  So may our prayers go beyond words and be made real in our lives.