DON’T YOU DARE START SAYING MERRY CHRISTMAS YET.
Whatever. Stop that. Seriously.
Why? What’s the point of Advent and why have we (as clergy, especially) allowed it to become more important than the almost overwhelming joy that wraps us up during December?
We (the church) started out with good intentions, methinks. Too much of secular goings-on seemed to overtake the general anticipation of the incarnation of Christ; yet, in our attempts to hoist Advent up and hold it as a sacred season, many clergy and stodgy parishioners have morphed ‘the hoist’ into a strangle-hold, virtually choking the life out of Christmas before it even arrives. This isn’t the intent, and it was never meant to be. If we can’t see our need to become closer to Christ, our need to retrain our desires to seek God, THEN gifts and holiday bustle, we’ve already lost. But the cost paid to right the wrongs of ignoring God during Christmas is a little high, right now. We overshot. We placed Advent on an unreachable pedestal, worshiping it rather than practicing it. Well, knock it off—both figuratively and literally.
I want to encourage you to embrace the Christmas spirit, wholly; I also want EQUAL encouragement to be shared for your anticipatory practice during Advent. It IS important. But it isn’t so much so that I desire you to forgo the Christmas joy around you so that you feel better about liturgical life. Let’s face it: People NEED joy, especially now. They need to hear and feel that someone out there loves them; that a stranger could hold the keys to unlocking their caged isolation just by virtue of saying two simple words…Merry Christmas.
…Annnnnd I just read Deacon Dion’s article for today. Turns out, that’s the Holy Spirit at work, folks. My article was going to end with the previous paragraph, but I feel like adding just a bit more. I agree with him, completely. My own Advent ascetism has been so strict the last few years that I (GUILTY) have not let the words, “Merry Christmas”, depart from my lips prematurely. So let me say this, and please hear me: Practice Advent because you desire to come closer in contact with Jesus Christ, and because you feel the need to delve into scripture and listen to others’ points of view. But at the same time, don’t forget the joy that is waiting to be let into your hearts if you would only allow yourselves to let it. Be not afraid of spreading holiday cheer. Be not afraid to listen to Christmas music, wear Santa hats, and dress in red (Here’s lookin’ at you, Tawana Ruder). And be not afraid to remind your local priest (if needed) that Advent and Christmas are but two parts of a whole year—a year in which we step one foot closer to the presence of God.
I wish you a blessed Advent.
…and a very Merry Christmas.