The Season of Advent
Today, December 1, 2013, is the First Sunday of Advent. That also makes it the first day of the new Church Year. This day is always four Sundays before Christmas Day and the 12 Days of Christmas so its date varies from year to year.
In today’s United States culture, the weeks leading up to Christmas often have a lot more to do with commercialism and keeping our capitalist system working, seemingly to equate the joy of the season with buying and receiving gifts. As I ponder how our ancestors treated the season of Advent and Christmas I know it was quite a different experience.
The season of Advent in the Church was much like the Lenten season–a time of quiet and somber preparation. Churches and homes alike were not decorated until Christmas Eve and only then was the joy of the birth of the Christ Child into the world and into our souls celebrated. There are delightful traditions connected with Christmas from centuries back but they were not very “commercial” and limited to the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec 25 – Jan 5).
Now I, like so many of us, begin my Christmas preparation and celebration with Thanksgiving weekend–which is often also the First Sunday in Advent. I rather like it. Our church is decorated for Christmas and we are finding ways to prepare for the remembrance of Jesus’ birth with joyful anticipation. At home, I have my outdoor lights up, the Christmas decorations in their places, and Christmas music playing. It, too, seems like a lovely way to prepare for the annual celebration of the birth of our Christ. I am thinking that as long as we keep our focus on the love of God being manifested in the world, how we celebrate from generation to generation is of little consequence.