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Christmas in the midst of Advent

December 14, 2011

Today is the 26th day of Christmas in our home.  As a recovering Advent purist, this comes as a bit of a shock to me.  I have for years bemoaned the early coming of Christmas to malls and radio stations, and have sought to hold off at least until mid-December.  Events conspired against me.  As we awaited the birth of our second child in late November, it seemed wise to decorate before he was born.  So on November 19 – to the strains of Christmas music, sacred and secular – our decorations went up.  One week later, our newborn son in his fourth day of life, we took our elder child to pick out the Lyle family Christmas tree.  The day before Advent even started we were in full-blown Christmas mode.

So how is this Advent purist handling such an extended Christmas?  I love every minute of it.  I have yet to tire of the carols, even as iTunes shuffles through the same Christmas music again and again.  I still delight in turning on the tree lights each morning.  I have read our daughter The Night Before Christmas innumerable times, and find myself ever-more delighted each time she cries out at the top of her lungs, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

What I have found in all of this celebrating is a deep appreciation for the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, already accomplished in that first nativity, so many years ago.  If God could take up residence in a dreary stable in Bethlehem, why can the Christ not tabernacle in our house the whole month through?  After all, Christ’s Incarnation is already accomplished.  God is with us – Emmanuel! – and there’s no sense pretending otherwise.  Mary’s baby boy has long since been born, and I’m enjoying letting my life be of song of joy throughout this time of Advent.

Of course, we’re doing Advent, too.  Each day, another felt ornament goes on the sacred calendar from my wife’s childhood.  We light the correct number of candles around our wreath.  And the congregation marks time properly, not rushing things, as the sense of anticipation builds toward the great Gloria of Christmas Eve.  And this, too, is as it should be.  For even though Christ’s Incarnation is long accomplished, we are still a waiting people, a hopeful people.

For Christ will come again, in the final fullness of his glory.  Christ will come again this day, too, meeting us as promised in Word and Sacrament, and probably in some pretty surprising places, too.

So I think it makes sense that Advent and Christmas occur at the same time rather than in strictly linear fashion.  The God we worship is non-linear, appearing not after a certain time, but in the fullness of time.  Our odd keeping of time this year is helping me stay grounded in the “already” of Christ’s Incarnate presence in our midst while also keeping my eyes on the “not yet” of our anticipation.  And I know that none of this “early” celebrating will diminish my joy one bit when, with the faithful of St. Peter’s, I join in the opening hymn of Christmas Eve, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”  The night will be every bit as joyful and triumphant as ever it was.  Maybe even a little bit more.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”  Luke 2:20

From → Advent/Christmas

3 Comments
  1. Lovely, David. Well written.

  2. Marla permalink

    I wondered when you got your Christmas tree so early if the “practical” was beating out the “symbolic” in your life. I still don’t like seeing anything to celebrate Christmas until AFTER Thanksgiving, and worry that Advent as a season of the year is totally disappearing.

    But, little Anders was definitely a good reason for getting the tree early, and giving Greta some fun daddy-daughter time was really valuable.

    For those reading your blog who live far away from St. Peter’s, let me tell them that you have not “given in” to decorating the church too early. The advent candles/wreath still take center place in the front of the church.

  3. Thanks, Marla. Yes, I think we need to maintain Advent – it’s such a counter-cultural thing, especially in our on-demand world. Waiting is a good discipline and one we maintain, espcially in the way we mark time within the church itself. But this year has been fun for me – it’s like celebrating with some of the symbols of Christmas waaaay early makes me want the whole thing even more.

    And yes, friends, Marla is correct. Advent is still very Advent-y at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church!

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