by Charlotte O
'Tis the season'. Trees are going up, playlists are being downloaded, and gifts are being purchased. In churches it may be more of the same: parties being planned, plays being rehearsed and halls being decked. Where I live, it’s not uncommon to see decorations going up in department stores long before we start to decorate the church. We just passed the first Sunday in Advent, where at my non-traditional, non-North American church that meant business as usual. Living overseas, I’ve found my own ways to cope with being away from home during the (sometimes lonely) holidays, and to build a sense of expectation in my own heart, even if it’s not happening in the way I grew up back home (the biggest difference being the lack of snow!). But when I saw an ‘Advent’ or, as they would probably label it, ‘Holiday Countdown’ calendar for sale at Starbucks this morning, it brought me back to Drake’s recent post about McDonald’s and church. While it may seem ridiculous to us to adopt the measures suggested by the video (and as Drake so well refuted) what principles can we apply in a more positive way?
Jesus’ birth splits history. It uproots systems of power imbalance, elevates shepherds and virgins and brings kings to their knees in worship.
When it comes to Christmas, we have known it’s coming for a long time through commercials and store displays. Only 100 shopping days left until Christmas they declare, finish your shopping early they encourage. And with the over-saturation of cheap advertising gimmicks, it can be tempting to get sick of Christmas before December even arrives. Stores have plenty of reasons to get people excited for Christmas, all of them monetary. But as a church we have even more reason to build the anticipation to the event that changes everything.
Jesus’ birth splits history. It uproots systems of power imbalance, elevates shepherds and virgins and brings kings to their knees in worship. Let us not forget that without Christmas there would be no Easter. Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us began in a stable three decades before it would end on a cross.
What we have to celebrate is so much greater than what the world would sell us. What we have to offer is so much more substantial than quickly-discarded stocking stuffers.
Christmas can also serve as a good reminder that we are living for something greater... and that there is a ‘Christmas Future’
Shopping malls may have a head start on us, but what can we do as a church and as those who follow that God-Man who came to earth that first Christmas to not only build anticipation but also bring meaning to an over-commercialized holiday? I’m not saying we need to look like the world, any more than we need to put a McDonald’s in every church. But we can try to draw people to the truth because it is good: it brings meaning and purpose, and ultimately, life.
How are you preparing for Christmas and what challenges do you face as you do? It’s easy to forget the meaning amidst the busy-ness, just like in life we so often forget that the sense of anticipation points to an even greater truth. Just as the Israelites of the Old Testament lived in expectation of the Messiah to come, we are to live in expectation of Jesus’ return. And Christmas can also serve as a good reminder that we are living for something greater, that this life is temporary, and that there is a ‘Christmas Future’ that involves no more suffering, grieving of lost loved ones, emptiness, greed, disappointment, or pettiness. And that is just as worthy of celebration!
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