(This was read before yesterday's service.) ______________
There is an argument being waged among us that is far more contentious than who you voted for in the last election. In many cases this controversy causes emotions to flare up more than the abortion argument, gay marriage and tax policy, and it has divided friends and family along very distinct battle lines. And it is this: When is the appropriate time to begin listening to Christmas music?
Some, like myself, hold to the more traditional view that the Thanksgiving Holiday should be savored to the fullest, not to be mingled with the elements of Christmas, and therefore it is most appropriate to begin listening to Christmas music on the day after Thanksgiving. This is, of course, the most Christian view and is (in all likelihood) held by many giants of our faith like St. Augustine, Martin Luther, Lottie Moon, C.S. Lewis Robert Griffin III and, of course, Jesus.
And then there are a several variations of the other view. Some believe Halloween is the appropriate time and still others hold that there IS no “appropriate time,” that any day is an day in which Christmas music can be played. This is the non-Christian, liberal view and is held, in all likelihood, by such historical figures as Genghis Khan, Kim Kardashian and, of course, Hitler.
This is an argument that is probably not going to be solved in our lifetimes, so when we encounter each other with differing views it is probably best just to nod our heads and quickly move on to the next subject, all while secretly judging each other.
But there is something about the Christmas season that I think we can all agree on: Once Thanksgiving is over, things get frantic and busy and loud. The time of the year when we most anticipate that Silent and Holy night when eternity broke into our world in the form of the baby is often accompanied by a lot of noise. Stress levels rise as a season that is meant to be reflective and joyful becomes, instead, burdensome. And we wonder, is there any cure for all of this frenzy that ends with Christmas day coming and going before we even have a chance to savor it?
And as if on cue the church clears her throat, steps forward and says yes, there is a cure: Advent.
Advent begins the church year and acts as a counterbalance to the speed and anxiety that the culture around us has burdened Christmas with. Advent sees us running full steam ahead toward Christmas and it gently presses its foot on the break and says, slow down, wait a second, stop. Christmas will come in due time. The day to welcome the light of the world is coming, but first let’s remember something: We are in darkness. Wars are raging both around the world, and in our hearts and before the savior comes we must, like John the Baptist, prepare the way.
Joan Chittister reminds us that the purpose of Advent is "not to delay the celebration of Christmas, but to enhance it. It's a kind of delayed gratification that culminates in a … satisfaction that is all the richer for the waiting."
Phillips Brooks: IT WAS NOT suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation. Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of his time, did Jesus come.
For us, the next four weeks is about preparation and slowly watching the light overcome the darkness. To symbolize this we will light candles that represent the themes of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. We will sing songs of hope and expectation that will slowly give way to songs of joy and jubilation. And we will wait with baited breaths for the salvation of the world, both in remembrance of the first time, and in expectation of the final time that Christ will bring heaven to earth…