Summer is near

Jemimah and I essay a positive case for the Advent experience in Australia

The wife of the author has weighed in on what is surely the most important issue in Australian piety: what are we to make of our celebrating Advent and Christmas in the summer?

In Australia we enjoy the odd coincidence of historically English Christmas traditions and cultural fodder exported by American media, and the arrival of Summer. A wide array of Australian Christmas Cringe has arisen as an attempt to resolve this symbolic conflict. Surfing Santa icons. Sleighs drawn by kangaroos. Aussie Jingle Bells. T-shirts with mock Christmas-knit prints. All designed to elicit laughter, or at least a knowing smile. Because, you know, we’re Australian and we love to wear Santa hats at the beach and we love to laugh at ourselves doing it.

Go read the whole thing.

To complement Jemimah’s well-researched and carefully edited piece, I offer here an assortment of aphorisms about Advent in Australia.


At the creation, the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep—until God said, Let there be Light. God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. There was Evening, then Morning. The basic movement of the Earth’s history is from darkness to light, then from one degree of glory to another.


The Day of the Lord spoken of in the prophets is, I believe, mainly focused upon the reign of Christ over the earth during the Lord’s First and Second Advent. This is an era of light, righteousness and true worship following a long dark night of wickedness and idolatry under which the world waited.

During the night, men could get away with all sorts of evils, and God suffered the nations to walk in their own ways. But when the Sun of Righteousness at last shone upon the world, their evil deeds were exposed.


I suspect we should find it significant that Christ instructs the disciples in the Olivet Discourse, as he prepares them for their exodus from Jerusalem, “pray ye that your flight be not in the winter” (Mark 13:18).

In Matthew’s account, Christ also warns the disciples that in this time, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). A terrible cold snap right at the end of the winter!

But Christ assures his disciples that, after all this, “summer is near”. It is a great encouragement to them not to concede their hearts to the winter. (It is, I think, my favourite quotation from the gospels.)


When I was a young boy, I thought Father Christmas’s cameo in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was kinda neat. When I got a bit older, I thought it was weird. Now, I realise that it’s brilliant: Father Christmas does not appear despite the fact that winter is ending; he appears because Aslan has bared his teeth and the winter is soon to meet its death.


Once upon a time, the prospect that Australia, that distant heathen land, might be evangelised and converted was seen as a fulfilment of God’s promises in the prophets. In 1724, Jonathan Edwards wrote concerning the distant coastlands hoping in Christ (Is. 42:4):

And what is peculiarly glorious in it, is the gospelizing the new and before unknown world, that which is so remote, so unknown, where the devil had reigned quietly from the beginning of the world, which is larger–taking in America, Terra Australis Incognita, Hollandia Nova, and all those yet undiscovered tracts of land–is far greater than the old world. I say, that this new world should all worship the God of Israel, whose worship was then confined to so narrow a land, is wonderful and glorious!

[Quoted in Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder, The Fountain of Public Prosperity: Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1740–1914, 57]


It is very fitting that the celebration of Advent in “this new world” is a bright and sunny one: while Australians and other Southern Hemisphereans do miss out on re-enacting the sense of expectation of Christ’s first coming into a cold, dark world, we do enact something of the expectation of the Lord’s return to a world that is full of light and glory.

We should embrace our summery Advent without any irony. We should rejoice that the Sun of Righteousness has shone his light even to the furthest corners of the earth. It should delight us that this season feels more like the Second Advent than the First. Each of us should sit under his own vine and fig tree with a cold beer and give thanks to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what Christmas is about.