The one exception to my rant against the ant-Christmas Advent mafia comes by way of the Revised Common Lectionary. Until my one man campaign to change the liturgical calendar, moving Advent to November and expanding Christmas from the Sunday after Thanksgiving through Epiphany, is successful (spoiler alert – it never will be thanks to the lies we tell ourselves about the way things have always been) we will be stuck with some pretty tough lessons on the Sundays leading up to Christmas. Year A is no exception.
One of the cliches of the secular Christmas season is the Christmas party at which somebody/everybody drinks too much. A quick Google image search of “Christmas party” leads to lots and lots of pictures of champagne toasts and people having way more fun than is humanly possible. Pre-2019, this was coupled with tales of random hook-ups at office parties and icky stories of harassment by drunk executives. Yet, on Sunday morning in Advent 1, Year A, we will hear Paul encouraging the fledgling Church to be ready for Christ’s second coming by living “honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.”
Over the course of this past year, my own relationship with alcohol has changed quite a bit. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, my new medication had printed twice on the label something like “do not drink alcohol while taking this medication.” After more than a decade and a half of being “a couple of beers after work” guy, I’ve become more of a “occasional good glass of bourbon” guy. In the initial stages, I went something like 3 months without a drop of alcohol and realized just how consumed with booze our culture is. TV, movies, advertising, social commentary, dining out, whatever it is, the norm in our culture seems to include alcohol, and too much of it.
Maybe it makes sense, then, that we are met on Advent 1 by Romans 13:11-14. Perhaps in the lead up to the greatest joy earth has ever known, we might set aside the things that dull us to the pains of the world; that which tries to fill our never ending search for joy and happiness. I’m not saying everyone needs to take a dry Advent, but certainly we ought to avoid the traditional office party cliches that Paul names directly: drunkenness, debauchery, and licentiousness. A Romans 13 Advent invites us to look forward with clear minds and open hearts to the good news of great joy that will come to us again on Christmas.