Sunday, December 2, 2012

Here We Go Again

Today is the First Sunday in the Season of Advent, and the “Christian Year” is off and running once again.

It so happens, as it always has, that the secular culture got the drop on us and started celebrating the non-church version of Christmas around the early part of November. This included mostly wintery songs and Christmas carols played by local radio stations and over store speakers, with red and green decorations sprouting up upon and within most retail establishments.

This means that by the time we get around to celebrating the Birth of our Savior, many of the hymns we sing will have been all but worn out over the airways. For most people, Christmas will be only a single day, and its celebration will stop short. For those who keep the Christian Calendar, however, it will continue for Twelve Days. This will require some recalculation for Christians who want to follow the on-going story of the coming of the Messiah.

One of the problems regularly besetting congregations and their pastors and musicians this time of year is whether or not to sing Christmas hymns and carols during Advent, or wait until Christmas itself comes around. Inevitably, there will arise with clenched fist church members who want to sing Christmas carols in church because everyone is hearing them played in the shopping malls anyway, and so why shouldn’t we sing them in church. Usually some truce is negotiated.

But that isn’t the only recalculation needed if we’re going to celebrate Advent at all properly.

What is even more important is for us to remember that the Four Sundays in Advent are times of preparation for Christmas. Therefore, we observant Christians must remember not only that we must wait to begin Christmas, but that we have to shift gears into reverse. There is much to be done before we can even start celebrating.

Advent’s colors are clues for us.

The color purple suggests that Advent is a somber season. It is, in fact, a season of penitence, patterned after the older Season of Lent. The shouts of John the Baptist to “Repent!” will echo through the texts and sermons the Second Sunday.

Here we are called upon to reflect on our own need, and the world’s need, for the coming of the Messiah. If we do not recognize and freely admit that we need who Christ is and what he has to offer our wounded souls and this broken world, we will not likely be very receptive to the Gift he is and all he brings.

Blue is another color sometimes used during Advent. It symbolizes Hope. Advent is a time when we hear the hopes and longings of people in ancient times crying out again today in the yearnings of so many around the world. The desires of the Prophets ring out for what God has promised in the way of justice and peace.

One more color shows up in the candle on the Advent Wreath for that Third Sunday. Pink is the color associated with Joy. It reminds us of a text appointed for this day, Philippians 4:4-7, which begins with the word “rejoice”. Somber season though it may be, this is a reminder that the impending coming of God in Jesus Christ is a cause for great and abounding joy among all peoples.

Christmas is not a time to be treated lightly. It must be approached with reverent preparation in the form of reflection, expectation and anticipation. In other words, we should take a step or two back before we step forward.

May your Advent be a season of many blessings.

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn has written a series of Advent text hymns using Christmas carol tunes that the Presbyterian Outlook is promoting as a fundraiser for the magazine:


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