Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent, One More Time. . .

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 eight years ago.  This year, I offer it to you once again, lightly edited. . .

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This past Sunday was 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 more low-key emphasis on the whole 'penitential' thing. 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 welcome 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 Jenn 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. . .

12 comments:

  1. I'm not very devout at anything, but I DO remember Advent Calendars from my early youth (when the Ol' Man was stationed in Paris), wherein one got to open a new window on a fairly large (about 12" w x 8" h) religious-themed illustration. Both my sister and I had our own Advent calendars back in the day and I distinctly remember the excitement building as we got nearer and nearer to Christmas Day.

    Well, now. THAT was off-topic, wasn't it?

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    1. Hey, it was Advent-related, right?

      ;)

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  2. Happy Advent. I hope it is a season of peace and love in your family.

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    1. Thanks; it's always a bit of a challenge to get to 'peaceful', but the effort is worth it. . .

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  3. True, that, about the Christmas trees. When I was very young, My Dad (who had attended seminary for a short while, by the way, and I suppose I should be glad he found he didn't truly have the calling) would never put up the tree until the 24th. He'd buy one earlier, but it would hang out on our back porch (an outside porch, completely - not even a roof) for the week or so before then.

    We always celebrate through Epiphany, as you know. It bugs me when so many people are ready to toss things and move on at 6pm on Christmas...

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    1. ". . . I suppose I should be glad he found he didn't truly have the calling."

      Heh. Yeah, I suppose so. . . ;)

      We actually do the same thing - buy our tree a week or two ahead and stash it behind the shed until we put it up, usually the Sunday before Christmas. 'Cuz if you wait too long, the trees are all sold out. . .

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  4. Well then, i'll sav the stories about how our tree (fake as it is) is up and deco'd since Thanksgiving weekend and we've already had eggnog (the real stuff) and a few decos outside.

    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas season, when you get around to it ;-)

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    1. Thanks, my friend; when we finally get around to it. . .

      ;)

      (I mean, it's not like Advent has nothing to do with Christmas. . .)

      And listen, I like egg nog (rum included, if you please), but man, I can practically feel my arteries clogging when I drink the stuff. . .

      ;)

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    2. OK, then you're doing it right!

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    3. Then again, if made right it's self-regulating. One glass and you're full

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  5. It's funny ~ your post made me think of my husband and his quirky personality. He is a buddhist, but insists on putting up the Christmas tree (well, it's more like he gets the boxes out & I put it all up, lol ). I wasn't too keen on doing it this year, having been laid off my job of 18 years, but now that it's there, I do enjoy it. And my Mom is the queen of taking the tree down on the 26th...mostly because in those days the tree was real, and the needles would be falling like snow...

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    1. I've occasionally been accused of having a 'quirky' personality, meself. . .

      ;)

      And, thanks for stopping by. . .

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