I am a not-so-secret fan of Thanksgiving. Turkey and stuffing are just about my favorite foods on earth, and how can you not love a holiday dedicated to food and gratitude for the many ways in which God has blessed us, our families and, of course, our church family?
Perhaps it is my fondness for Thanksgiving that makes me cringe with the realization that the cultural Christmas began before October 31, and will hit full force at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving when many stores will open to begin “Black Friday” sales. Given the US economy, it is understandable why many retailers are anxious to lure us into the stores earlier than ever. But still, the mad dash makes me sad.
The season of Advent, however, begins only a few days after Thanksgiving this year and invites us into a different way of experiencing this season that isn’t reflected in the noisy chaos of December. Advent asks us to quietly wait and watch, with deep expectancy and maybe even a little apprehension, for the coming of Mary and Joseph’s child. That coming of God into our human experience changed — and continues to change — everything for us.
I know that pastors (including yours) can be pretty obnoxious in telling people what they should and should not do, sing, buy or celebrate before December 25. This year, however, I am honestly feeling a little more like Auntie Mame from the Broadway musical who famously sings: ”We need a little Christmas, right this very minute!” For many reasons, all of us need comfort and joy this year, but I believe we can experience both right now during Advent.
I invite you to dig down deep and figure out what it is – what it really is – that makes this season of the year special for you. See an old friend. Write a letter – a real letter, not an email or text. Take a walk. Call up someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Visit a homebound member. Take the first small steps toward mending an old hurt. Let someone else have your parking space at the mall. Better yet, skip the mall entirely and shop at a local merchant. And instead of silently resenting the clerk who says, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas,” why not ask how their day has been going and maybe thank them for doing a job that is difficult on a good day and even harder during the holidays. In other words, do those things that bring comfort and joy for yourself and others, and skip those things that lead to stress and anxiety. The habits you begin in Advent may very well carry over into Christmas and beyond!
The Advent Conspiracy is another way in which we can keep “Christ” in Christmas by being Christ in the world and reaching out to people who need comfort in our community, region and world. You’ll be hearing more about The Advent Conspiracy over the coming days in this space and at church during worship.
May the peace of Christ surround you in this season of looking for the light of the One who has come to us in human flesh, is with us now through the power of the Holy Spirit, and will come again in glory. As the great theologian Linus van Pelt once quipped: THAT is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.