Is there a way to get back to the essential purity of what the Christmas Season is about? Is there a way to be out-of-step with the rest of society in its mad, consumerist rush to “celebrate Christmas”? Is there a way to do it without the whiny demands of “putting Christ back into Christmas”? I believe the secret is not in more culture wars, but in the more subversive approach of simply observing the Advent calendar / season. You see, Advent is about ONE THING… waiting. Therein lies the counter-cultural secret; that while everyone is madly fulfilling the Christmas season the week before Thanksgiving, those of us walking by the different rhythms of Advent are busy waiting. And OUR Christmas Season begins December 25th – the true fulfillment and beginning of celebration – 12 crazy days and 12 crazy nights.
So here are 4 insights into the Season of Advent that I think will revolutionize the way we “celebrate” Christmas:
1. The actual season of Advent runs for 4 weeks – starting the first Sunday after Thanksgiving right up to 12/24 – Christmas Eve.
2. Advent itself is about WAITING – not premature celebration. So we hold our breath, bated, poised for just a few more weeks. We deliberately hold off on the mad rush. Maybe even stay off the roads if possible. Some traditions hold off on doing their decorating until Christmas Eve. And perhaps we needn’t worry but trust that there will still always be a good tree left on the lot. After all, isn’t that what Advent is about? Trust, and the wisdom of delayed – not instant – gratification. It’s out-of-step with the rest of society in its mad, rushed frenzy to “celebrate” Christmas.
3. The season of Christmas lasts 12 days and 12 nights – from Dec 25th to January 6th – hence, (BIG discovery!) the “12 days of Christmas” are not the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but the 12 days after Christmas! 12 crazy days and 12 crazy nights! That is not hyperbole because lookit: the church calendar gives us plenty of dour days (Lent) and plenty of waiting and longing (Advent), what’s so wrong about 12 days a year of unhinged celebration of the Return of the King? It can only be good for us…
4. Christmas is about celebration – so once Dec 25th rolls around, better let your hair down, pop the cork, let the celebration spill out into the streets – the King has come. And while the rest of the world struggles to cope with the darkness of post-Christmas let-down, we’ve just turned the lights on, our party has just begun. Infinitely better, psychologically, if you ask me.
So! from one Advent practitioner to another, share your best practices: how are you subverting “Christmas” this year? How are you intentionally practicing waiting? How are you preparing to celebrate? I would love to hear your thoughts & advice.