What’s the big deal about Advent?

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I get Advent.

It’s a time of waiting, a time of preparation.  A time to contemplate our need for a saviour coming into the world.  A time to focus on God’s ultimate goal for creation and Jesus’ Second Coming. It’s a distinct season from Christmas.

Yada yada yada. (Yes, I just yada yada’d Advent).

For the first five or six years out of seminary I was a good Reformed minister.  I gnashed my teeth at the thought of any Christmas hymns before December 24th.  And I boasted proudly that our Christmas tree or Christmas lights weren’t going to come down until after Epiphany! The Advent Conspiracy got hate email from me because the conspiracy was that it was actually about Christmas and not about Advent!  But in the last couple years I’ve been rethinking my staunch adherence to the Advent Party Platform.

What’s the big deal about Advent?  What harm is it to start dealing with Christmas in scripture, sermon and song before December 24th? I’m not advocating for singing Silent Night, Joy to the World, and O Little Town of Bethlehem in November.  In my family we have an Advent wreath that we light every night at dinner, adding a candle at each Sunday of Advent.  But with my four year old, we also talk a lot about Christmas during this time because that’s what is on his mind.

By early to mid-Decemeber I think it is time for us to embrace that Christmas is all around us regardless of what the Liturgical Calendar says. Remember Karl Barth’s take on newspapers and the Bible? Well, guess what the newspapers are full of starting the day after Thanksgiving?  It ain’t Advent.

Right now, someone reading this is shaking their fist at their monitor and yelling at me, “But Shawn, we aren’t supposed to conform to society! Since everyone is in such a rush to hurry to Christmas, that’s just a greater reason for us to wait and stay in Advent.”  It would be great if everyone would slow down and really take time to be in Advent and not hurry to Christmas.  It would also be great if we all ate family dinner together every night, schools wouldn’t schedule things on Sundays, and going to church was a given.

But this isn’t the way things are anymore, and no amount of sticking our heads in the sand is going to activiate the magic time machine to take us back to the good old days.  As a church, we lose the chance to reflect theologically about Christmas if we wait until December 24th to do it.

So what do you think?