Advent Firesiders

Reverse Advent Calendars (2017)

When the dust settles after all the end-of-year analysis, 2017 may be remembered, among other things, as the year of the food bank, a worthy charitable sector which might strike one as just a little dull, as most good works are. But many food banks are urging us this year to operate what they call "reverse Advent Calendars" whereby, instead of plucking a piece of chocolate out of your Advent calendar every day - and I need not remind you of my views of chocolate consumption in Advent - you find a big box and put an item for the food bank into it every day.

I must say that I'm turning into something of a food bank subversive. Whereas the organisers are usually asking for pasta, baked beans and tea bags I like to slip in some small treats like bars of chocolate or a packet of biscuits, always trying to picture the children of the families who need our help so much; it is so easy to become callously utilitarian, doing our duty without exercising our obligation of empathy.

I had high hopes when, just after his appointment, Archbishop Justin made an assault on extortionate lending and pressed for more credit unions, but he seems to have run out of steam and, so it is time for us to think carefully about the role of Christians in a society with a widening divide between rich and poor, bound to get much worse before 2020. The trouble is that our action is too often hobbled by a wariness about party politics but then, I say to those who disagree with me, it's just fine for you to advocate a widening gap between rich and poor if only you are honest about it; just don't pretend it isn't happening if you think it's a price worth paying.

If we put items into a box right up to Christmas Eve then the delivery won't be until after Christmas but that's when poor people, who have stretched every financial fibre for the celebration, need help most; and it doesn't matter if it's after Christmas Day, it will still be Christmas, so slip in some festive treats.