We’re in the middle of Advent. Liturgically, it’s the beginning of the new church year. Practically, it’s the countdown to Christmas. It’s a season of waiting, expectation, anticipation and heightened awareness that a special day is on the horizon.
Some churches make a big deal of Advent and some churches skip over the whole thing and just start singing Christmas carols before people have even had a chance to finish their leftover turkey. I’d like to make a case, in whatever church/denominational/liturgical setting you lead, that you try to aim for at least three things as you lead in Advent.
The countdown to Christmas taps into a longing in people’s hearts that they might not even be aware is there. The presenting longing is for a fun party, or for some days off, or for time with family or opening presents, but the underlying longing in all of us is to be rescued. We all want a Savior. If you think I’m crazy just watch people’s faces at political rallies. It’s nuts.
At this time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the weeks the church has called “Advent” (for “arriving” or “coming”) for centuries, we’re crazy if we ignore the anticipation that everyone is experiencing and attempt to skip over it and jump to Christmas too soon.
Wait until the last Sunday before Christmas, or even Christmas Eve, to sing Christmas songs. Sing Advent hymns, not Christmas carols. Light the Advent candles. Pray Advent prayers. Let the prophesies of the coming of Christ be read in your services. Don’t decorate your sanctuary too soon. Intentionally hold off on bringing Christmas into things too early in the season. Build anticipation, even to the point of making people ask you why you’re waiting so long.
The point is to tap into people’s anticipation and to remind them that the underlying longing is for a Savior. It will make Christmas (and Christmas carols) all the more sweet when you finally get there.