The Bifurcated Season of Advent/Christmas Is Upon Us

Jesus is coming.  That’s the point of Advent, the beginning of the church year.  We learn to wait as we celebrate Advent; we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming;  it’s a drastic reorientation towards the good news of his presence here (past, present and future) and the fact that we are not alone in all the challenges and vicissitudes we face.

And yet Advent happens in the midst of the American crazefest called Christmas.  

I think of them as two different things.  To me Christmas is an entirely secular holiday during which we do and eat things that speak of tradition, weight gain, trips to Costco, excess and groaning.  Oh wait, it’s not all about food.  That’s just a metaphor.  

Growing up, my family had several great traditions — eating a five-pound Whitman’s Sampler for our Christmas Eve dinner, after which we would take a walk around the block, the “ceremony of the presents” (passing them out on Christmas Eve), going to a movie on Christmas afternoon (actually that was just my father’s tradition for he preferred to go alone; Scarface anyone?). 

So the Christmas season is the time when we squirrels gather our nuts and run around hoarding things so that for one quiet day, December 25, when all the stores close and we stay home with our families to indulge in all the things we have prepared for for lo these many weeks, we are “ready!”

“Are you ready?” is a constant question between women, especially mothers, during the Christmas season. And everyone knows that it’s an attempt to measure the craze-factor in each other and to think out loud about all the things that we were supposed to do (teacher gifts, extra stocking stuffers, bows on candles). It is anxiety-inducing.

Yet, we are invited in the midst of all this craziness to the greatest gift of all, the arrival of Christ, who comes quietly, unobtrusively, in the most unglorious of circumstances.  He left the ultimate glory, Scripture tells us, to come and be incarnate among us — out of love, identification and the “with-ness” necessary to bring God’s love to us, to tell us of His plan for our connection to Him, to help us learn to live, through His power, the life that is ours for the taking.

And so for me, I balance two things: the heritage handed down to me from a father who had many traditions but none of them particularly religious and the spiritual inheritance I have, as a Christian, from a Father who probably does delight in my enjoyment of manifold traditions, secular and religious, but who invites us beyond tradition to relationship and to new birth.  He invites us during Advent to drawing back, pulling in, going deeper and finding more, as we await Christ’s coming and celebrate it anew.

So even as I pull out my CDs of Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, write crazy poems to go with Christmas presents (clues included), gather my cheesy Christmas aprons found on eBay, bake around the clock, marvel and complain about “all this excess,” and generally enjoy a secular American crazefest, I will also spend time in prayer and contemplation and attempt to reflect on Christ who came to earth, who will come again to set things aright and who is with us now in the form of the Holy Spirit to help us do our part in seeing that “(His) kingdom come(s), on earth as it is in heaven.”

My church is a great source of recommended resources as we, a small community of believers here in DC, try to walk through the season together, encouraging each other in disciplines that will make it meaningful. Here are a couple of our recently recommended resources: 

http://www.spirithome.com/advent.html
http://www.churchyear.net/advent.html

So in my opinion, we have two holiday seasons before us: one secular, one holy.  

Integrating them takes a little effort but yields double joy.

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~ by Cary on November 25, 2008.

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