Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Thoughts on Advent and Christmas - Reynolds

Every Advent season I find myself not quite in tune with the current liturgical fashion. Here I put my thoughts down on paper and present them now for any response you might be willing to give. This just seems like a good place for theological discussion!

Advent traditionally signifies the beginning of the new year of the Christian calendar, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent is for me a time of joyous expectation. The somber sounds of judgment in the message of John the Baptist are for another time, such as Lent when we remember our sin and the sin of the world. Advent is a time to celebrate the wondrous love and incredible grace of God who came among us as a humble babe born in a stable.

The “joyous expectation” is not restricted to the four weeks leading up to Christmas but is an element of faith all year which only intensifies as Christmas approaches. For those of us who believe that faith is lived as much in kairos as chronos, as much "God’s time" as "clock time," expectation and fulfillment blur together -- the already and the not-yet. "The Season of Christmas" does not begin on December 25th (or the evening of December 24th) as some liturgical literalists would have us believe. It begins with the faith and hope given by the Incarnation of God in Christ which is what Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, is meant to signify. Some of us are like little children, ready for Christmas anytime of year!

That of course does not mean instant satisfaction. Fulfillment is still to come. Rebel against liturgical literalism that I am, I still don’t like to sing "Silent Night" until Christmas Eve. But many of the traditional Advent hymns are so dreary, the words talking of judgment and destruction, and the tunes are positively droney. I long to sing songs of joy and hope in anticipation of Christmas. In other words, I want to start singing some of the "Christmas carols" during the Sundays of Advent.

It may be that the Second Advent is mentioned in the New Testament eight times for each mention of the First Advent, but at this season I just want to remember the First Advent -- that Christ has come. I’ll spend from Pentecost to "Christ the King" concentrating on and working toward the Second Advent, but in the weeks leading up to and immediately following Christmas, I want to concentrate on the First Advent, that Christ has come, that God is not just in heaven but on earth, and ultimately all will be well.

And so my colour for Advent, the Season of Christmas, is red -- bold, bright red. Blue is for the blues. Purple for the time of Lent, whose lengthening days give me the courage to repent. But for Advent, it’s red! Red bows upon the evergreen. Red candles in the “Advent wreath,” while at its centre the great white Christ candle stands in wait. Red wine with the bread on the table, reminding us that even the Crucifixion is triumph. (Blue is indeed my favourite colour, but the designation of blue for Mary the mother of Jesus came out of the Counter Reformation and the Spanish Inquisition. That’s enough to turn me off.)

So call me the Red Rebel, or Reynolds the Red, or whatever you like. Whatever the liturgical fad (remember the letters stand for "For A Day"), I will start to get in the spirit of Christmas about the same time the stores bring out the Christmas stuff and start playing the carols. And horrible as the Musak may sound, and atrocious as the "stuff" may be (Cabbage Patch dolls or Talking Elmo or Burping Barby), I rejoice that even in the Godless commercial world, the birth of the Saviour of the world, the Lord of life, is recognized and celebrated. Surely it gives the rest of us a chance to show the world something of the real meaning of Christmas, that the true "Spirit of Christmas" is the Spirit of God, even the Spirit of agape Love revealed to us in life of the babe born in Bethlehem.

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Thanks Alan, for giving us these Advent / Christmas musings to chew on and to move us into a mode of Christmas cheer. They comprise a goodly swathe of ideas to think about.
Ah yes, blue is my favourite colour also, and yet I don't find myself associating it with melancholy so much as mystery. :)

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