Christmas pre-season (otherwise known as Advent)

Ever have one of those days when you know you have forgotten to do something but can’t think of what that was? Yeah, me too. Like yesterday. It wasn’t until last night that I realized, I never did write my blog post. I ask forgiveness for slipping a gear and offer this Tuesday morning musing.

[Of course, if you edit but don’t send, then you have a day off, well, it gets to be Thursday – oy!]

I came in this morning and anxiously headed toward the Sanctuary. Yesterday evening a couple of dedicated church folks came up and set up the Chrismon tree. I always love seeing the tree in our Sanctuary. It just sets the mood for the festive season. It makes me very excited for this coming Sunday and the beginning of the Advent season. I love the way we decorate for the season and I love singing the songs and carols.

And that brings up the real challenge of Advent. As many of my liturgically nerdy friends (ones who seek to honor the distinction between Advent and Christmas) would tell me, the songs of Christmas should not be sung until Christmas. Then, keep singing them through the “12 days of Christmas,” which begins on Christmas day. Advent for many Christians has become something different from what it is “officially” intended to be. And, truth be known, I am okay with that.

Advent, in the official lexicon of the church, is about the coming of Jesus – not just the baby Jesus (for he has already come), but the returning Jesus. Advent is a time to remember that yes, Christ died, yes he is risen, but also that he will come again. It is a time to remember that the Kingdom of God burst into the realm of this world on Christmas day, but that was just the beginning. The birth of Jesus represents the beginning of the birthing process for the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul says that all creation groans in the labor pains:

18 I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.

(Romans 8:18-22)

So, Advent is meant to be a reminder of the greater picture of God’s saving grace and the fullness of God’s Kingdom yet to come.

That view as Advent is historically accurate and right, and, my church-nerdy friends are correct. And yet, I still see Advent differently. I still see Advent as the Christmas pre-season. It is the gearing up and preparing for the joy of the day so many of us enjoy. It is the time leading up to the great day recognized by many of our friends and neighbors who may never think of Jesus much at other times. For me, it has become the time when we can show glimpses of the truth of Christmas. It has become a time when we can try new ways to engage people in the real meaning of Christmas.

It is, for me, a time to sing the songs of Christmas that are already playing in the stores. It is a time to offer people the opportunity to give of themselves in ways they might not at other times of the year. It is time to decorate and celebrate even more than our neighbors. And it is a time to invite those neighbors to enjoy a bit of holiday peace and joy in our homes and in our churches.

I am particularly excited about the opportunities being presented in our church. Not only will we have the normal fare of Salvation Army Stockings to stuff and the local Fire Department Toys for Tots donations, but this year we will have the chance for people to give a different kind of gift. We will be offering “alternative giving” opportunities. People can give to various ministries in honor of friends and loved ones. It’s a great way to bless those in need while honoring the hearts of our friends and relatives.

I personally love having people donate in my name because I really have all I need. If friends will give $5 or $10 to a ministry in my name, and that money is added to the gifts of others from around the country and around the world, then that small gift can make a real impact. And the impact of that small gift would be so much more than a picture frame or a bookmark (though I am always grateful for any gift).

Well, I have rambled on and mused a good bit today. Thanks for reading and I hope it was worthwhile. I hope that Advent will be a special time for you no matter how you see it or celebrate it.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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One response to “Christmas pre-season (otherwise known as Advent)

  1. Speaking as one of your nerdy liturgical friends (and as your sister, the nun) I loved your blog entry for Advent! It’s my favorite season, mainly because people seem to be extra generous, extra-aware of the needs of folks around them, and extra willing to make sure that the joy of the season is experienced by as many folks as possible. I steer clear of malls once we pass Thanksgiving, preferring to make gifts, write cxards, etc. and focus on ALL my relationships… first with God and then with everyone else. I look forward to lighting my Advent wreath and watching the intensity of the light grow with each passing week.

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