I’m often asked by those considering exploring Holy Habits in their churches: in what order should they explore the habits? One of the key things in considering this is how the order can fit well with the rhythms and seasons of the year. As we enter into Advent and look forward to Christmas, we enter a season that offers plenty of opportunities to reflect upon, promote and practise gladness and generosity.
Aside from all the obvious connections and associations, I am struck this year by how the urgent issues around us highlight the need for this habit to be practised in the whole of life. I write this in the midst of the general election campaign. How glad are we that we have the freedom to vote? How generous will we be with our vote? I remember a hairdresser once saying to me that they didn’t know much about politics so they always did what their grandfather had told them to do: just vote for what’s best for you. To my shame I didn’t challenge that, as Christlike agape love compels us to think of the highest good of the other too – 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Matthew 22:39).
There is also another international conference on climate change happening at the moment. In my prayers this morning, I prayed that the hope of Advent might be present in that gathering. For it to be so, generosity is going to have to rise up if the most vulnerable peoples are to be able to look to the future with any sense of gladness. Those of us who have more will have to have less.
Generosity comes in many forms. Today I have been inspired by the story featured on BBC Breakfast News of Emily, a young girl who has been kind to police and nurses by giving thank-you letters and bars of chocolate to them. Sometimes being generous is so simple. Sometimes it is extremely costly. A few days ago, like so many, I was deeply moved by the extraordinarily generous self-giving of those who put their lives at risk to protect others in the horrific knife attack in the London Bridge area.
The Christmas we celebrate at the end of Advent is all about the supremely generous self-giving of God in the form of Jesus. May you and yours be blessed in your celebrations of this extraordinary event and may we all know the grace in our lives to live with gladness and generosity.