Monday, November 22, 2010

Preparing For Advent

 As I prepare my heart for the season of Advent, I find myself repeating the lament of so many Christians at this time of year. "Why has Christmas become so commercial?" This is not a new lament for me or for the church, but I'm ready to do something about it in my life.

This year, I have decided to celebrate Advent rather than the co-opted version of christmas forced upon me by American culture. Who cares if store clerks in the mall say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas?" Mall shopping has N O T H I N G to do with the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. The American christmas has nothing to do with the Christian celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. The American christmas has nothing to do with the Christian celebration of Christmas, Christ's Mass.

In his 1950's book "Season's of Celebration", Thomas Merton wrote:
It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our marketing culture so easily harmonize with our tendency to regard Christmas, consciously or unconsciously, as a return to our innocence and our own infancy. But the church, in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior, and a Prince of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The Advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, history, humanity, the world, and our own being. In Advent, we celebrate the coming, and indeed the presence, of Christ in our world.

There is so much more to Christmas and Advent than commercialism and there is more to the season than complaining about the commercialism. I choose to ignore the American christmas and celebrate the coming of Christ and the realization of God with us.


  1. I'm certainly glad you have the option to celebrate Advent, and get to ignore Christmas. Sounds like you don't have any kids who are co-opted early, and don't really understand when we say "Christmas is for giving, not for getting." They may nod and they may give lip service, but when their friends all talk about what is coming their way on Christmas day, the parents' best intentions for "reframing" the discussion quietly disappears.
    That's not to say you shouldn't try - just be prepared to fail miserably if you have kids.

  2. My daughter is 10, last year she said in mid-November, in all seriousness, "I can't wait for Advent." Perhaps because we have always kept Advent in our home, and she has known nothing else. Yes, she sings about Rudolph and Santa at school; but the daily Advent prayers as we light the candles of the Advent wreath and hang the small decorations on the bare-branch Jesse Tree have made this a truly holy season. Kids can do Advent, too. Yes, they look forward to gifts under the tree, but that doesn't mean it's their sole focus.

  3. Reply to abbiewaters:
    You're right, I have 1 grown step-daughter and no grandkids, yet. I do know how much pressure friends and peer groups can put on kids to conform. When I was a kid the fear of being singled out and different led me to do a lot of things I didn't feel good about.

    Teaching children that, as Christians, we are different and live by a different standard is the responsibility of the whole Church, not parents alone. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Reply to Heather;
    It is beautiful that your daughter has such an understanding at such an early age. I don't believe we can abandon giftgiving at Christmas, or even propose we should.
    Since I don't have young children or grandchildren, I can aproach Advent a little differently. I want to use Advent the same way we use Lent and that is to seriously condiser the sacrifice God made in becoming flesh; and to seriously embrace the gift of love within that sacrifice.