lundi, décembre 09, 2013

The end of Advent? And how to bring it back.

Before, I could rest in the bliss of virtual ignorance.

Now, because of Facebook, I am aware that many of my friends already have their trees up.

Not only are they standing in foyers and living rooms, but the trees are actually adorned with shiny bulbs, and ribbons, and lights, glimmering out into the darkness.

Not in our home.

We've got a tradition of waiting until it's almost Christmas Eve before we commit to a tree.

A few days before the holiday, I race down to Dan Messner's farm, and choose one of the last ones.

And we certainly don't decorate our tree before Christmas Eve.

Until then, (or so I learned as a new Christian), it was Advent.

Greenery? Appropriate.

A few chaste ribbons? Lovely.

But an abundance of lights and metal and gorgeous frippery?  That's meant for the season of Christmastide.

I was, in other words, an Advent purist (I also am allergic to Christmas music 24/7 for a month before the actual day, so perhaps that makes me an Advent snob).

But a few days ago, I realized something incredibly elementary: it's possible to separate a large, decorated, fragrant fir tree from a man crucified on a tree.  Or even from a small baby asleep in his crib, surrounded by the a family and barnyard cows.

After all, the fashion of adorning trees with ornaments came in with, let's see, Prince Albert. I believe it was the German priest who married young Victoria who really introduced the celebration to England. From thence, like many other wonderful traditions, it made its way over here to the former colonies.

Not to mention that we mark the birth of the Christ child around the time of an ancient pagan festival, the Saturnalia.

In other words, Christmas can be celebrated in ways both secular and sacred.

The secular celebration doesn't have to start the night before Christmas (when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, because, you see, we have two cats...).

I do object to Christmas at Thanksgiving (or, even worse, Christmas in October), but to each his or her own.

Not everyone who commemorates the holiday is a Christian, and this is a secular country. So if you like an abundance of decorations, music and greens, bring 'em on.

What troubles me is that we seem so caught up in rushing around that, even those of us who follow Christ seem to have closeted, tamed,  and forgotten the reason we celebrate the liturgical season of Advent.

What ever happened to waiting, watching, forgiveness and expectancy?

I happen to be a fan of the liturgical calendar, but in many churches, including my own, it has taken a back seat to other priorities.

The calendar disciplines us, teaches us. The ancient stories of the prophets, the Baptists, the birth remind us that we are timebound creatures.

That sometimes, all we can do is wait.

This waiting itself is a gift from a generous God.

Sometimes we don't know what fruit that waiting will bear until it (he?) appears.

I'm not even sure (perhaps this sounds a wee bit like heresy) that we need to celebrate the birth of the Christchild at Christmas.

Perhaps what I ought to say is that as long as we celebrate God's coming among us in every season, it's o.k. to indulge in all of the very secular festivus that goes along with this particular day in December.

And, while we're at it, let's not confine expectation to Advent. 

Hope, and humility, fear and awe, joy and fulfillment are part of a life lived in the shadow of grace.

Maybe we'll buy a tree a few days early this year.  And perhaps I'll try to see more, feel more...wait more.

After all, I don't want to miss any signs of His presence among us.

Even if he shows up before December 25.

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