We're just into the season of Advent, but acting as if the Christmas season was already in full bloom"'Tis the season to be jolly." That would be the Christmas season, technically. And that season has not yet arrived. Technically, we're in the season of Advent for three more weeks--right up through Christmas Eve. We're carefully preparing our hearts, making room for the "arrival." That's what we're doing if we care to observe ancient church and a deeper cultural tradition. Commercially, however, it's already "Christmastime in the city." In the stores. With the ads. On TV. Over the radio waves...
THE RHYTHM OF KULTURE KRISMAS. We know there are two primary rhythms for celebrating Christmas, right? One is what I call Kulture Krismas. This is the rhythm most of us in America know and practice. It begins with Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and finishes on Christmas Day. It's full of frolicking and purchasing and caroling for the month leading up to December 25. But after the "big day, we're partied out. We're spent. Christmas is pretty much over.
THE RHYTHM OF ADVENT PREPARATION. The rhythm fewer know--and still fewer observe--begins with four weeks of soul-searching preparation in Advent, highlights with Christmas Day communion (the Mass of Christ, i.e., Christ-mas), and extends through Epiphany on January 6th (celebrating the arrival of the Magi at Bethlehem). This rhythm gives us the tradition of giving a gift on each of the 12 days of Christmas.
TWO MOODS, TWO JOYS. The feeling and mood of Advent is like a home that is anticipating a child to be born to a family. It's wonderful, hopeful and joyful. But it's primarily a time to prepare, to make room for the child. But the gift, the child being born, the birth day, is the beginning of the real celebration. That's what brings surpassing joy and cause for real revelry.
CHRISTMAS RUSH. Most of us who know of the more ancient tradition accommodate the more secular/commercial Christmas, but we do so with mixed feelings. We cross this border daily during the weeks of December. We try to live in the rhythm of Advent, attempting to hold off untimely outbursts of "Joy to the World" until Christmas Eve, only to find ourselves indulging the crowd that can't wait for Santa Claus to come to town.
ADVENT SIMMER. So, if I seem a bit reticent to dive whole hog into Christmas frolicking in these weeks, please indulge me this small eccentricity. I'm trying to prepare my heart to make room to fully experience the grace of Incarnation--as if the Child were suddenly, upendingly born in my heart and to our world on Christmas Eve. Then, I'll sing--and keep on singing--with gusto: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!"
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