There has been a lot of dialogue in the Evangelical world in recent years about a war on Christmas. The cry was to say “Merry Christmas” in defiance to something like “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.” Regardless of the words we use, the war on Christmas is fed from lawsuits to remove civic-sponsored Nativity Scenes and school prohibitions about mentioning the Jesus of Christmas. However problematic the external forces of our society press against a Christ-centered Christmas, it may be our in-house disregard of Advent that sets us back. Could our fight for Christmas be a fight against Advent?
Advent traditionally is a focus on the waiting for the coming of Christ, making it even more difficult to translate to a secular world than simply a baby being born. Is the fight secular Santa with shopping versus Jesus and public nativity scenes? Or, could we be pitting a shallow Christmas glee against the poignant focus on a child born to make an ultimate sacrifice? Light set against the dark defies the sugar syrup of sentimental Christmas story re-tellings. Having produced many Christmas seasonal services over the years, the tension to deepen the idea of the Incarnation pushes back on the cry to feel the saccharine vibe of candy canes. We feed the beast of sentimentality as a means but might be losing something vital in the process.
I actually think Santa is “way cool,” by the way. Celebrating along with our culture and society a season of hope and giving makes for a needed connection. Those who are not church goers need to know most of us like a lot of the same things and that our point is to not evangelize for a boring Christmas. However, as far as us worshippers are concerned, why would we choose to not make the season of holy days a time to contemplate for ourselves? In reality, the tradition of four weeks of Advent leads to a traditional celebration of 12 full days of Christmas! Once we spend time in contemplating the waiting and need for a God-man to save us, the festival of Christmas can be launched from a truth we experience. Truth experienced is always better than propositions regurgitated, by the way.
A war on Advent does not appear as an outward assault but as an inward omission. Have we focused so much on what language others use for the season that we forget why we actually celebrate? The coming—or Advent—of Christ was long awaited. And the time we live in the brackets between the First and Second Coming cannot be understood in full without the Incarnate Christ being celebrated. My favorite passage of scripture makes the point this season.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. —John 3:16 and 17 (NIV)
PRAYER: May we celebrate this Christmas that you, God the Father, sent your son to pay the penalty and to save us rather than condemn us. May our attitudes toward those who are not in our Christian family of faith be a heart that follows in the steps of your son, Jesus. Those steps advocate for the powerless and poor. Forgive us, Lord. Instead of condemning and judging those around us, let us inspect our own hearts and humbly compare our lives to yours. In that introspection, let us see how forgiven we truly are. In that experience of being loved, let us learn to love. AMEN.