Sunday, December 2, 2012


I don't want to distract anyone from the main body of the post, so I'll just mention ahead of time that yesterday was nice enough (mid-40s, no precipitation) that I got out for another 24 miles.  So I got December miles (yeah, I know it was only December 1st, but hey, it's December) for the second straight year, meaning that I've gotten actual on-the-road miles for the last 21 consecutive months.  And my total for the year is at 1797.  It shouldn't be too hard to find three miles somewhere between now and the end of the month, but we shall see. . .


On to the Main Event. . .

In recent years, in solidarity with my friend Suldog and his Thanksgiving Comes First campaign, I've re-posted a piece on Advent that I originally ran six years ago.  This year, I offer it to you once again, lightly edited. . .


Today is the First Sunday of Advent - the beginning of the Christian season of spiritual preparation for Christmas, and the beginning of a new liturgical year (so hey, Happy New Year!). Over the years, I've really come to love Advent, imperfectly though I may observe it. In rough terms, Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter, with a bit less of a 'penitential' emphasis. Rightly done, Advent is a time of contemplation, a time to step back from the normal frenzy of daily life, take a few deep breaths, and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas. One of the old traditional Advent hymns bids us

Make your house fair, as you are able,

in preparation to receive God in human flesh four weeks hence.  So, Advent is pretty much the polar opposite of 'consumer Christmas'. Pausing for contemplation is not a thing we Americans are terribly inclined to do (perhaps I should rather say it's a thing that we're inclined to do terribly).

In the larger American culture, the 'Christmas season' runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, but in traditional Christian circles, the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day and runs until Epiphany (January 6) - thus, the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' - and Advent is marked out by the four Sundays immediately preceeding Christmas. So, when most of our neighbors are finished with Christmas (sometime in the late afternoon or evening of December 25th), we're just getting started. It always perplexes me just a bit to see all the Christmas trees out on the curb on the 26th; when Jen was a kid, Catholics didn't even put their Christmas trees up until Christmas Eve. And, just as I'm getting pumped to finally be singing 'Joy to the World' and 'O Come, All Ye Faithful', most of my neighbors are sick of the whole 'Christmas thing'.

Maybe I should blame it on the Magi - they started the whole giving-gifts-at-Christmas thing. I doubt they had any clue how far it would get out-of-hand, though.

When it comes right down to it, though, I've got to admit that my spiritual preparation for Christmas is my own responsibility. It's not up to American culture to get me spiritually prepared. It might be nice if the culture were more supportive (or even just less disruptive) of what I'm trying to accomplish, but it is what it is.

So, our family is setting out on Advent. If, over the next few weeks, I seem a little reticent and low-key about Christmas, you'll understand, won't you? And then, if I'm getting all Christmas-y just when you're getting tired of it all, you'd be very kind to indulge me. In the meantime, I'll be over here, singing 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel', in a minor key. . .


  1. Have a blessed and peaceful Advent.

  2. congrats on your miles accomplished!

    I do agree with you, that it is our own responsibility to prepare spiritually for Christmas and boy are there lots of distractions out there to prevent one from doing so! I can see why some can spend so much time getting ready for the day and forget exactly what they are celebrating, bhe birth of a King.

    Good reminder for us to be reflective this Advent season.


  3. You fired off a memory for me with this post. My father was stationed in France when I was a young boy (from ages 8 to 11). My sister and I would get French Advent calendars every year; they were large... prolly 18" x 18"... and each day was numbered in a little box that you would open to reveal a Christmas scene inside, some were secular and some were religious. It was always a Big Deal to open the new "door" on the calendar every morning... and the excitement mounted as Christmas drew ever closer.

    I did a Google image search to see if I could find an appropriate illustration of such a calendar but I came up empty. Oh well... the image is clear to ME... less so for you. ;-)

  4. A friend of my folks used to give my sister Advent calendars each year when they were kids. We all looked forward to the opening of each day's door.

  5. Bijoux - Thank you!

    corgi - Aw shucks; thanks.

    It's easy to get lost in the swirl, ain't it?

    Buck - Yeah, I've seen Advent calendars like that (actually, around these parts, they're typically just December 1-25, whether those correspond to Advent itself, or not); probably not quite as nice as the French ones you describe, but they were laminated paper things, with little perforated 'doors' in the front sheet that you'd open every day, with some 'getting ready for Christmas' scene hiding behind each door. . .

    Skip - Does what I described to Buck sound familiar?

  6. It is, as always, a post that makes me think. And also appreciate, which I suppose is the major point of Advent, really, so...

    As I think you know, we exchange gifts on January 6th, so our Christmas season tends to really get into swing later than some (although, I must admit, it usually begins with tree-trimming and whatnot around the 10th or 11th, my post about trees today notwithstanding, so still way earlier than maybe it should.)

    We always have an Advent calendar. We try to get one that features more religion and less Santa, but they become harder to readily find each year.

  7. Just read another Advent-centric post, from my friend across the pond, The Broad, and thought you might enjoy it:

  8. Thanks, Suldog. Actually, when I think of it, exchanging gifts at Epiphany makes more sense, anyway, doesn't it? (I'll resist noting that you could take advantage of the after-Christmas sales that way. . .)

    Thanks for the link to The Broad (I suppose I'll have to explain that sentence to my wife, not. . .) A most excellent post, hers. . .

  9. it's good to pause and contemplate. thanks for the reminder.

  10. A Blessed Advent to you and yours .... looks forward to seeing you on the other side... ;)

  11. Lime - It is, indeed; and you are most welcome. . .

    Xavier - And to you. And yours.

    And we'll look forward to seeing you on one side or the other. . .

  12. Excellent post, Craig -- and sums up very well how I feel about Advent. On Sunday our church had it's annual Advent Carol Service which is held in the evening and a feast of readings and old carols. What is very heartening is that it is so very well attended. I wish I could have beamed you (and your wife, of course!) over here for it! Anyway, I'll be posting a little video I filmed on the night of the choir singing the beautiful German hymn "Wachet auf", which you might enjoy.

  13. Broad (just so you know, it was really hard for me to type that) - Thanks for stopping by! I'm honored!

    I'd have loved to be beamed into your Advent Carol Service (both for the service itself, which I'm sure was wonderful, and the experience of being beamed). Advent engages our humanity in some really unique ways, I think. And of course, Christmas, when you get to the bottom of it, is about the Incarnation - God With Us, The Word Made Flesh, in our own humanity. Which boggles my mind, just a little. . .

    And you hardly ever hear about the Incarnation on the piped-in muzak in Walmart. . .

  14. Craig, that was a truly wonderful post and I agree with every word. I'm here because of the link posted on the Broad's blog (she and I are blog buddies) and I have so enjoyed this post. I've posted on the same theme myself, because it makes me so sad to see Advent sidelined and Christmas devalued by over-exposure to all things Christmassy over so many weeks.

  15. Perpetua - Thanks for stopping by! I'm honored!

    And thanks for your kind words. We miss the richness of the meal when we skip right to dessert, don't we?

  16. Craig, just found your blog today, via Buck. Sorry it took me so long to get here. And the first post I read concerns Advent, and Epiphany, oh wow, its nice to find another "soul" brother.

    (I'll be over at my place, trying to keep up on "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" - which always brings a tear to my eye and hope to my soul. Bravo!)

  17. Sarge - Welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

    When it comes to Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, the Incarnation, etc, the Real Stuff is ever-so-much more interesting, ain't it?

  18. I love the season -- and sometimes I must admit to missing celebrating it in our home the way we used to.

    However, that said -- we are traveling out this weekend to enjoy some wonderful Hanukkah visits with family and I still do get to partake in the traditional celebration with my family each year.

    Wishing you a wonderful advent season, Craig!

  19. Thanks, Flutter.

    I once heard a really fascinating talk by a Messianic rabbi, on the 'spiritual' connections between Hanukkah and Christmas. Utterly fascinating. . .