Advent is almost over. Thank God! Learning Advent and Christmas were two different seasons was a gift. But it did not change the bitter-sweet experience of the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Perhaps we need to lose some of the traditions churches have during Advent.
Honestly, how many members of your congregation actually know the meaning of the word “cantata?” They may guess it has something to do with choral music. According to Merriam-Webster, cantatas are compositions for voice and instrumental music that has its origins in 17th century Italy. I know church choirs often look forward to doing them. Pastors try getting the performances on Sunday mornings to get out of writing yet another sermon with the advent message of waiting in hope. Sometimes these performances are two weeks prior to Christmas. Actually having them during the twelve days of Christmas would interfere with too many family vacation plans. If we are not going to do them during Christmas, why do them at all?
Can we pass the offering plate during the Christmas pageant for regular budget purposes? Pastors want to try this because the attendance is often higher with more people who do not usually give to the ministries of the church that pay for children’s programming. It is fun to see the kiddos dressed as people the rest of us would suspect of being terrorists during other times of the year. They are trying to act out the parts of Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, wise men, sheep, and cows. It can be fun. But for the kids it is just something they are expected to do.
The lights to the stage and the costumes make the children uncomfortable. They hope they do not have to memorize too many lines. One year, as an inexperienced pastor, I suggested the wise men carry a censor with burning frankincense to lend some “authenticity” to the production. Parents asked what the “horrid smell” in the sanctuary was so I dropped the idea.
Are the children actually learning the story of Jesus’ birth? Or are they learning the story a playwright wishes to tell of Jesus’ birth. Cue the little drummer boy.
Hanging the Greens At the Beginning of Advent
Or hanging the greens when we get around to it. There have only been a few times a church I served has a service of worship called hanging the greens. For most congregants, there is no worship involved because hanging the greens is churchy language for decorating the sanctuary for Christmas.
There are two kinds of people who hang the greens. There are those who are very enthusiastic about it with great visions of grandeur for the sanctuary, the fellowship hall, and some of the hallways. The other group are those who have to get everything out, do the heavy lifting, and will be the people who take everything apart and put it all away. These same people will swear solemn oaths vowing, “Next year we will remember where we put everything!”
The Advent Wreath
Well…we really should keep that.
Let us lose Advent. No one but the liturgically inclined see any difference between it and Christmas anyhow. Let Santa Claus have his “Christmas Eve” time while we concentrate on telling the story of the birth of Jesus after then. You know, while everyone is on winter break.
*Yes, this is satire.