Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent - preparing for Christmas

Tacking something on to an earlier post about Christmas.  Today in church our pastor related how Christmas traditionally used to be observed, long before the commercialism of the Day overshadowed the day itself.  He spoke of how Advent was the time that Christians prepared for Christmas Day, and during that time, Christians were penitent - as if it was a Lent "Lite".  No fasting, or anything extreme.  But a time of inner reflection, of spiritual preparation, for the coming of the Christ Child.

I was so appreciative of our pastor's message.  For the choir devotions a couple of weeks back I talked about the "Ceremony of Carols" by Benjamin Britten, particularly the movement that speaks of the helpless baby born in absolute poverty, Who is to conquer sin.  And our pastor's message echoed the sentiments of that devotion: that we need to spend Advent in preparation.  Not just getting the decorations up, or gift buying and wrapping, or making sure EVERYONE gets a Christmas card.  No.  We need to spend the time preparing our hearts for Christmas.

I miss the idea of the traditional Christmas.  What we really observe these days is derived from what Dickens wrote in "A Christmas Carol".  Many of our traditions can be traced to that time in the early 19th Century.  But more importantly, Christmas didn't START until the 25th.  Trees were not put up and decorations not done until Christmas Eve.  Gifts were exchanged on Christmas Eve.  Then Christmas day was the 1st day of many days, 12 to be exact, in which Christmas was truly celebrated.  It was not celebrated with gifts, or after-Christmas sales.  But with family, and with gifts given daily until Epiphany on January 6th, which is the traditional date of observance for the appearance of the Wise Men.  Now, does the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" make a little more sense?

I yearn for THAT type of Christmas!  Where we decorate that day.  Where the tree goes up and is decorated Christmas Eve.  Where we celebrate the Day itself with family and church - no massive 2-hour marathon gift session.  And then we observe the 12 days until Epiphany.  That REALLY is Christmas!  It's not just the DAY!  It's the "season" that goes for the 12 full days.  That would be special!  And that would truly be Advent followed by Christmas!

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