Keep Christ in Christmas: Stop the War on Advent

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, too. And that’s a problem. Because, Auntie Mame, we’re not even to Thanksgiving Day yet.

In the words of Clark Griswold, “Where’s the Tylenol?”

And how many people with their “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers seem content to follow along like little red and green sheep, with their decorations and their music and their outfits, oblivious to the fact that the sole reason for Christmas creep is money. Period. The reason the celebration comes 3 4 5 weeks early is so retailers have more time to peddle all the crap we don’t need, don’t have room for, and will be poorer in soul for buying.

And with all the preparations, all the partying, all the music consumption, we don’t even realize what exactly we’re preparing for.

The church’s answer for this, of course, is Advent. I love how Joan Chittister puts it.

“Advent relieves us of our commitment to the frenetic in a fast-paced world. It slows us down. It makes us think. It makes us look beyond today to the ‘great tomorrow’ of life. Without Advent, moved only by the race to nowhere that exhausts the world around us, we could be so frantic with trying to consume and control this life that we fail to develop within ourselves a taste for the spirit that does not die and will not slip through our fingers like melted snow.”

There is a real war on Christmas going on, but it has nothing to do with the stupid red cups or “Happy Holidays” or nativity scenes on courthouse lawns. No, the real war on Christmas is actually a war on Advent. With all our buying and decorating and racing around, we’ve let our hearts go unprepared. We’ve refused to slow down, even for a minute. Like spoiled children, we’ve found waiting to be too hard, so we’ve rushed ahead with our music and parties and the obligatory “Merry Christmas!”

Yes. We. Us. The church of that little fella in the manger who, it turns out, is the promised King. We are the ones refusing to keep Christ in Christmas, not the checker at the grocery store who says “Season’s Greetings.”

For example, take our indiscriminate consumption of Christmas music.

I used to occasionally tune in to the broadcast of a large megachurch in the Houston area on my way home from church. The last time I listened was almost one year ago, on the first day of Advent, before the Thanksgiving pecan pie had been fully digested, they had their congregation sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Apparently, they didn’t notice the awkward tension between the calendar and the final stanza’s opening line.

“Yea, Lord, we greet Thee.”

I wanted to shout, “NO! Listen to yourselves! Do you even realize what you’re doing?” Here we were at the very beginning of the season, and instead of taking time to reflect, prepare, and anticipate the birth of the Holy One, they’ve already thrown a party for which they were woefully unprepared.

Church, take time to prepare!

The time for celebration hasn’t yet arrived.

Use the self-imposed time of waiting for Christ’s first appearance to learn how to keep awake for his next.

Follow the Baptist’s call to repent, for the kingdom is so very near.

Ponder anew the beautiful craziness of the whole story. Wrestle with its implications in your own life.

So wait.

The words of the Apostle are still pregnant with meaning, “When the fullness of time had come.” Among other things, it reminds us that waiting isn’t new, and it’s never been easy. This year, choose to wait, friends. Choose to anticipate. Choose to prepare. Choose to make room. Choose to listen. Choose to put off the celebration a little longer. Stop waging war on Christmas in your own hearts and minds.

Wait for “Yea, Lord, we greet Thee.”

Wait for “Star of wonder, star of night.”

Wait for “Worship Christ the newborn King.”

Wait for “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.”

Wait for “This, this is Christ the King.”

Wait for the holy night.

Wait for the happy morning.

And no matter what everything around you tells you to do, wait for Christmas.

And then linger there a little while next to that makeshift crib, after the marketplace dies down, after Santa has eaten his cookies, and everyone else plunges back into the frantic pace of their de facto ordinary time.

Keep Christ in Christmas, by keeping Advent in your own hearts.

Also, here is an online resource to help you figure out when Christmas has actually arrived.
(Flickr: Jorbasa Photografie, creative commons license 2.0)

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