As I write, I have just finished an Advent Service with the Pre-Prep part of our School, during which we lit the traditional Advent Wreath – for many the first sign that Christmas is on its way! The children’s faces were a picture as each of the 4 red candles were lit (one for each week of Advent) and I told them the story of the 19th Century German Pastor who originally used an old cartwheel to make a colourful display in his Kirche for the children – in that case 24 red candles and 4 white (one for each day leading up to Christmas), with an especially tall white one reserved for lighting on Christmas Day.
In our case, I explained how each of our red candles represents love, joy, peace and hope; and that the white candle in the centre represents Jesus coming at Christmas as the ‘light of the world’. These, our youngest children really got it – so well in fact that it reminded me of Jesus words in Matthew’s Gospel: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ Perhaps it’s that we, as adults (and teenagers), get so caught up with our ‘stuff’ that we fail to appreciate the simplicity of candlelight in the way little ones do? Perhaps it’s that the cares of the world – fighting in Syria, famine in Sub-Saharan Africa – whatever it is, it robs us of the simple appreciation of love, joy, peace and hope, and indeed of light to penetrate the darkness of our world?
In all parts of Taunton School we are getting ready to celebrate Christmas. There is Christmas music wafting around the Centenary Hall, the Chapel and the Senior School Gwyn Williams Room – all in preparation for Christmas plays and Carol Services when we ‘stop the clock’ and remember once more the reason for the season. Advent can end up being a frenzied time of preparation, but as the young Pre-Prep children so readily accepted at their Advent Service, it is also a time of watching and waiting – not just for the excitement of Christmas, but beyond – looking to the day when there will be no more wars, no more tears, and the darkness of the present age will give way to the eternal light of the Prince of Peace. That’s worth watching for – and that’s worth waiting for, if only we are prepared to ‘change and become like little children’ and, like them, get it! Our little people in the Pre-Prep have so much to teach us…
Rev Matthew Dietz, School Chaplain