Secular Christmas, religious Christmas, Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, Christmas eggnog, Christmas candles, Christmas lights.
I am the quintessential consumer of Christmas crap that every marketer dreams of and every minimalist fears.
Because at Christmas it should be classy…but the definition of classy has permeable boundaries.
And I listen to Christmas music early in the season. Mostly because I think it reminds me of Christmases when I was a kid, which were always full of magic and mystery and all sorts of greatness.
And perennial calls for stopping “wars on Christmas” or yelling for “no Christmas music until Advent is over” is all a bunch of nonsense from people who love to control things and who have an inordinate amount of time to obsess over nothingness.
But one thing is true: Christmas is for children. And I’m not just talking about secular Christmas with the fat elf and the flying Rangifer tarandus.
Religious Christmas is for children, too, in many ways. You may not want to hear that, but it’s true. The myths that have grown themselves around the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke (often conflated awkwardly with the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew) have created a narrative that theologically resonates, but realistically falls flat.
Angels, traveling Magi, virgin births…it’s all hard to swallow as reality, even for the faithful. It’s a story for children’s books.
And I’d advocate that you need not swallow it all to be Christian. In fact, it sounds like so much myth mostly because it was written to evoke that kind of thought in the reader and that kind of hope in the reader’s heart. You, too, are supposed to see that something unusual, epic, of mythical proportions is taking place in the person of Jesus.
Yes, you too.
But we’ve taken the mythical narrative and have tried to pass it off as history, and it all makes for people creating wars on Christmas (real and imaginary), and people rejecting theological truths because they don’t line-up with historical reality, and…
Well, here we are.
But see, this is the thing: the mythical nature of Christmastide is, and should be, balanced by the stark reality of Advent.
If only we could really re-claim Advent.
And I’m not talking about the Advent calendar with nice little doors that have chocolate inside until you get to Christmas eve.
That’s not real Advent. That’s commercial Advent.
And I’m not talking about just banning Christmas hymns or music in deference to Advent music. That’s like only focusing on one tire on a car, when the whole thing is broken. It won’t do what you want it to.
No, we need to reclaim the totality of Advent because Advent is for adults.
Advent is for adults who wait for births, or for diagnoses, or for the death of a loved one, or for a new job, or for any job, or for that pink slip they know is coming, or for relief from pain, or for visitors to arrive and cheer up a lonely existence, or…
Or anything that we wait for that causes anxiety.
Because Advent is all about receiving the uncomfortable news that God is on the scene, is going to show up, is going to shake up your world in some way. And that news when coupled with the “Fear not!” of the angel message is what balances out this season.
Your life is going to be shaken. But fear not!
Jesus, we need to hear that again. And I mean that phrase in every way it can be taken.
Because all the ridiculous anxiety around this time of year just points to the unrest that we have, the imbalance that we feel, when we focus so closely on one part of a larger issue.
The church needs to reclaim Advent because society, humanity, lives in Advent quite a bit of the time. It’s one of the shortest seasons in the church year, but one of the longest seasons of our lives: the season of waiting.
And we need to practice waiting well. Advent can do that, for the secular and the religious alike.
And I’m a reluctant Christian at times because most of the Christian world just skips right over it in deference to “defending Christmas” or focusing on music rather than meaning, or just abandoning it all together because, who cares?
That’s a question I’ve asked myself many times while waiting as both ends of the wick burn, as patience runs thin, as the meagerness of my existence comes colliding with the immensity of the existing world and I feel like a measly piece of nothingness against it all.
And I don’t have time for nothingness.
Advent’s answer to that question is, “Wait for the Lord, whose day is near. Wait for the Lord; be strong take heart.”
I don’t like answers. I like questions. But when all I have are questions, Advent’s response is balm for a weary soul.