Monday, December 15, 2008

The Rip-off of Following Advent

Here's how it's supposed to go.

First comes the 4+ weeks of Advent, a time of slowing, of cleansing, of deep-thinking, a time to be still and quiet, a time to contemplate the deep mysteries of the Incarnation and the hope of the 2nd Coming. A time to cease and desist from extravagant activities, a time to look silently inward, seeking holiness in the midst of a darkening winter.

Then, beginning December 25, 12 solid days of Christmas. Almost two weeks of celebrating Christ's birth, of excitement and joy and raucous wonder that the Lord has come to us.

Get it? Advent - the time of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," then Christmas - the time of "Joy to the World."

But our culture does it backward. 4+ months of garish Christmas displays in the stores and Marts of the land, many weeks of garlands and trees and Bing Crosby and Liquor and laughter, an extended time of frivolity leading up to December 25, and then. . .

It's over in an instant. All except the "returning merchandise to the mall-a-thon." We wake up on December 26, look around at the decorations and say "Is that still up?" All the Christmas music disappears from the airwaves, the Christmas specials gone from the television. And should you appear to still be in a Christmas mood on, say, January 3, people will look at you funny. "Dude - it's already New Years!"

Which means those of us who choose to do it the right way tend to get ripped off. We come through Advent and wake up on Christmas, ready to begin the celebration, just when the world is saying "nope - had enough of that."

See, I'm trying hard this year to stay in Advent and not get to Christmas too soon. I'd prefer to not be mugged by all the mall displays, I'm seeking music that is reflective, I'm reading books and articles that make me think slowly and deeply. Yes, we're probably going to watch Elf tomorrow night, and I've got the Harry Connick jr. Christmas CD on, so it's not like a total fast. But, overall, I'm not allowing myself to jump into Christmas hyperdrive yet.

And yet, I know how it's going to be. I'm going to be all ready to jump into the Christmas season just when the rest of you will be taking down your trees and removing the boughs of holly from the halls. Those of us who follow Advent. . .well, we may just feel a little cheated that everybody else peeked into the present box before it was time.

So, just so you know, I'm still going to be celebrating Christmas for a couple weeks yet, right up to Epiphany, with perhaps a short break for my birthday in there. I may just wish you a Merry Christmas well into 2009. Because once Advent is over, I plan on being plumb full of Christmas cheer. I can feel it building up already, and it's going to take some time to work it all out.


Anonymous said...

I'm always sad at how quickly Christmas seems to end. The radio goes back to regular programming on Christmas night, the trees and lights come down, the stores start toting "back to school" almost immediately. I think I like your way better. We try to draw it out as long as we can! (Susan)

Beth B said...

"I plan on being plumb full of Christmas cheer. I can feel it building up already, and it's going to take some time to work it all out."

Well put, Dan!

Jesanro said...

You know, I think I missed something growing up, cuz I had no idea that was what advent was about. PVCC was the only church i went to that recognized it and I just thought it was cool with all the candles. This is a totally different perspective and it's one I will be sharing with Nick and consider for us when we are our own family!