Before you read my post today, click here and read my friend, Evan Garner’s, excellent post from yesterday.
My Facebook Memories section this morning featured not one, not two, but three different blogposts on my discomfort with the season of Advent. In 2008, 2010, and again in 2014, I discussed why I dislike this season so much. It is partly because I find the music to be absolutely dreadful, but mostly because I have such a hard time disconnecting from the wider cultural impact of the Christmas season. I get that Advent is now seen as “counter-cultural,” but the majority of my Facebook friends who comment on it “not being Christmas yet” just sound obnoxious, and the Good News of Jesus Christ was never meant to be obnoxious.
So what are we to do with this season that if full of awful music and lessons about the end of the world while the rest of the world is doing the whole peace and joy thing that the Kingdom of God is supposed to be about? How can the Church be counter the culture of rampant consumerism without the counter the culture of time spent with family, sharing cookies, and trying to make the world a better place? Maybe we take the chance to preach from somewhere other than the Gospel lesson. Let Jesus handle the “signs in the sun, moon, and stars” and instead focus on Paul’s summation of what this Seasons of Advent and Christmas should really be about.
“How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?… And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.”
Let’s focus less on whether the altar should be blue or purple, less on whether we should say “Merry Christmas” before Christmas, less on the fact that the twelve days of Christmas don’t actually start until Christmas Day, and focus more on what it means to spend the next month and half rejoicing because Emmanuel has come and will come again to ransom us from bondage to sin and restore us to the everlasting life of peace, hope, and love, to paraphrase the only decent Advent hymn.
The Church doesn’t have to give up on Advent. We don’t have to stop being countercultural in this season of excess, but we should probably quit the whole Debbie Downer routine and celebrate that for at least 30 days each year, the usually critical of religion world we live in embraces the core tenants of our faith. We should pray, like Paul did, for an increase in love for one another and for all. It seems to be what we say Christmas is all about, so why not live it, whether the Church calendar says its Christmas or not.