Is It Christmas Yet? I Hope Not...

12.07.08 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[2]

Is it Christmas yet?  I hope not.

That's not coming from a guy who puts his shopping off until 9 pm on the 24th.  Nor is it the perspective of a Scrooge-like personality, although I have been known at times to mutter a "Bah, humbug" under my breath when dealing with holiday shopping crowds at the mall.

No, my desire to keep Christmas at bay until the 25th comes from the traditions of my faith, which include an appreciation for the season of Advent.  Advent, which runs on the traditional liturgical calendar until December 25th, is a time of perparation for the Lord's coming.  It's a time of anticipation, a "ponderous space" as I heard a theologian put it once, designed for us to examine our hearts and focus with anticipation not on presents or family get-togethers or (please, Lord) Aunt Dorothy's jello salad.  No, Advent is a time to consider the implications of what Christmas means when it does arrive.

In today's hurry-up evangelical culture, we're not too far behind the retailers who jammed Christmas candy onto store shelves before the last of the Halloween candy was sold.  We can't wait until Thanksgiving passes to sing "Joy To The World" and "O Holy Night".  In fact, we've already got the three magi bringing gifts and honoring the Christ child, when they didn't historically appear until some time later.  In my tradition, the carols and songs of Christmas are for Christmas day and afterwards.  The 'Twelve Days of Christmas' aren't the 12 days leading up to the 25th; they're the 12 days following the celebration of Christ's birth.  That's when you sing the carols, because that's when we have something to celebrate. 

The church today can barely constrain itself to keep the proper order of things.  It's a strain in many churches to hold back singing "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today" a week or two before Easter.  How many times does the Word say, "In the fullness of time..." and yet we just can't sing the songs, to have the experience, to get on with it and then hurriedly move on to the next big thing.  Waiting and contemplation aren't especially valued in today's evangelical culture.  We're too often preoccupied with being purpose-driven or 'relevant' or whatever the latest trend is in worship or church growth.

God give us the patience to know what it means to ponder the coming of Messiah.  Give us the grace to trust in that silent, contemplative space - something we're not always comfortable with - to process and begin to understand the awesome work that you began that night in Bethlehem.  God help us see that "the appointed time" may not be what we have in our Outlook Calendars or on our Blackberrys; that Christmas is worth nothing if we do not take the time to examine our hearts and our place in the continuing story of new life that began in that humble stall.  Let us not overlook the purposeful silence you desire us to share with you during the Advent season; a silence that gives deep meaning and richness when we celebrate your birth.  And not a day before.


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 12.16.08 Jesselea Spears commented

ive never really thought about this topic in the light of waiting to clebrate until after christmas day...a new perspective that will now stay with me. this insight brings to light how christmas is a commercialized holiday [[which we all presume to know about already]], but even with the economy in a downfall the focus is still on who can sell the most product despite that facts that most cannot afford.--if you wait to celebrate till the true time has come then you are not drawn into the worldly focus of christmas, b/c as soon as it passes the world instantly focuses on celebrating the new year and thoughts of christmas[[whether commercialized or true meaning]] are pushed aside until the following year...makes me think
*btw good blogging*

on 01.01.09 Ronald Rockwell commented

It is a sad commentary on our modern society, which equally sadly includes most of us who call ourselves christians, that we get caught up in the rush to get to Christmas day and get it over and go on to the next thing.
I'm glad that you brought up the point that the twelve days of Christmas actually start on Christmas day. Too bad hardly anybody sees it that way anymore.
Also, not enough people take Advent as seriously as they should, as you point out. Too bad.
Oh well, as they say; that's progress!
Keep up the good work spreading the Good News!