I wrote something on the subject that appeared in our local paper yesterday. Here it is.
"...Christ will come again."
Did you pay attention to the TV ads and see when the first Christmas commercials appeared? I noticed two ads on November 1, the day after Halloween. Some stores jumped the gun even sooner. We were having a belated Thanksgiving celebration on the weekend after Thanksgiving with some family who had been away on the long weekend. We were searching the stores for some autumn or harvest themed decorations with little luck, but we saw a lot of Halloween stuff and the Christmas decorations were already on the shelves.
In the church we try not to jump the gun (emphasis on ‘try’) when it comes to Christmas. Now, we’re not Scrooges crying "bah...humbug" to any early Christmas decorating or celebrating, but in many churches we celebrate a season leading up to Christmas called Advent. Advent begins this Sunday, December 3, four Sundays before Christmas. It’s a season that’s a bit more restrained, quiet, and austere. We’ll pull out all the stops on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the "Twelve Days of Christmas" that follow.
Until then we sing Advent hymns, not Christmas carols. Our church interiors are dressed in blue or purple, not red and green. The stores and TV commercials seem to get the jump on Christmas sooner and sooner because they exist to make money and it helps their bottom line. But by observing the season of Advent the church provides a deliberate counter-culture witness. We remind ourselves, and hopefully others, that the values of the Christian community are not the values of a society obsessed by consumerism.
Advent isn’t just a time when we look forward to the Christmas celebration. One writer has described Advent as "a threshold, a gateway, a bridge." It’s a time when future, present, and past sometimes get blurred. We pray "Come, Lord Jesus" and believe that he will come again, and at the same time that he’s already with us. In our Sunday worship we proclaim the mystery of faith, saying: "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again."
May Christ be with you as you look forward to the celebration of his birth, the joy of his presence now and always, and the hope of his coming again.