Until a week ago, I was telling people that our family were expecting six babies over five months, between December and April inclusive. I can assure you that such a high number of births so close together is extremely unusual, in fact unprecedented. Our family is not solely responsible for the population explosion! It just so happened that my daughter, daughter-in-law, two nieces and two nieces-in-law were all pregnant. Then last Friday the wife of one of my nephews gave birth to a son, who wasn’t actually due until 10th January. Being two months premature, young Arthur has to remain in hospital for some time yet but he’s making good progress, and he should be home with his mum and dad and big brother well before Christmas.

Meanwhile, we continue waiting for the other five babies! I find it quite interesting that, in these days of somewhat fluid genders, most expectant parents want to know the sex of their baby before it’s even born. To me, this seems a bit like opening your presents before Christmas. Some things are worth waiting for, and I think knowing what kind of baby you are expecting comes within that category. In fact, out of the parents of all these six babies, only my son and his wife decided to find out: they know that they’re expecting a little boy, due on 4th December. I haven’t asked them their reasons for this decision. (Mind you, my cousin’s daughter was told she was expecting a boy which in fact turned out to be a girl, so you can’t be 100% sure!)

As we approach Advent and the start of a new church year on 1st December, thinking about waiting for babies seems highly appropriate. I love Advent with its beautiful carols and its great themes of waiting, watching and preparation. Each Sunday we light one more candle on our Advent wreath, symbolising the light of Christ getting closer and closer. There are various traditions about this, but I especially like to be reminded of those who prepared for the coming of Christ. So, on the first Sunday we remember the Patriarchs - Abraham and Sarah - and King David, the ancestor in whose city Jesus was born. On the second Sunday, we reflect on the Prophets foretelling the birth of the Messiah. On the third Sunday we think of John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus. Finally on the fourth Sunday, we remember Mary who carried Jesus for nine months before giving birth to him in Bethlehem.
Of course, even without the benefit of ultrasound scans, Mary knew that her baby was going to be a boy because an angel had told her so. And that’s not all - the angel went on to say: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Great he certainly is; nobody else in all of history has affected life on this earth so powerfully – and continues to do so especially here in the West, even among those of no faith. I am reading a fascinating book by the historian, Tom Holland “Dominion”. While not a practising Christian, Holland acknowledges the debt that our civilisation owes to Jesus Christ, and I quote: “Christianity’s enduring impact is not confined to churches. It can be seen everywhere in the West: in science, in secularism, in gay rights, even in atheism. It is – to coin a phrase – the greatest story ever told”.
Come and join us at Trowse Church as we celebrate this greatest story at Christmas. Whatever your belief – or lack thereof – you will be made very welcome!