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quod pro nobis traditum est

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Where did Advent go?

Thanksgiving Day begins a rapid race toward Christmas, although signs of Christmas are also now found before Thanksgiving. It is a busy time, probably the busiest stretch of the year. Good prices mean shopping and more shopping. There is the Christmas tree, decorations, cookies, Christmas letters, cards, concerts, parties and more.Last year went so fast we did not even get the annual Christmas letter written. Add time spent on snow removal with the advance of winter. Time is a precious commodity and it seems to go fastest around this time of year. With today's arrival of Gaudete Advent seems to have come and gone. Gaudete is about rejoicing and rejoicing is another reminder of Christmas.

There is no question that Advent just does not come and go. Rather it too gets lost in the shuffle of Christmas. As the church year goes Advent is a preparation for Christmas. Yet it has largely disappeared under the more visible sights and audible sounds of the Christmas which has built up a life of its own.

Most of this time is one great commercial. I used to bemoan the disappearance of Advent in the Christmas rush, an impressive and over-reaching distraction. Advent is distinct, not in a commercial way, but in the preparation of the way for the Lord. John the Baptist is a key figure in this drama, making the connection between the Scriptures of old with their fulfillment in the One Who is to come. Lift up your heads, O Sion. He comes for you.

I used to bemoan early house decorations until I realized that people were trying to get them on their houses before the cold weather came. I notice the radio stations changing to an all-Christmas music format at Thanksgiving or before. Certainly the question arises, "Can we get too much of a good thing?" Apart from the commercialization of Christmas, which no longer seems to bother me as it did in the past (I'm too busy), is the question, "Where did Advent go?" This is not a question of how fast Advent went but where it went. A related question may be, "Is there something about Advent that leads some Christians into hiding?"

Beyond the demands of this time of year something must point to the importance of Advent for Christians. It is indeed a matter of time. Advent begins another year, assuming a continuity in the church that is not undermined by whatever distractions there are. Sunday flows into the week and back to Sunday. Weekday services highlight scriptural themes that point us to the Coming One. The Last Day is all about time, for it comes when we least expect it.

Each year it is the same story. Advent disappears in the rush toward Christmas. Advent has a richness of its own and this is lost to the hearer. Certainly, the season has little commercial appeal. Repentance is an emphasis and Ember Days hearken to self-denial at a time when such seems especially out of step. Yet Advent also highlights the double pardon from the Lord. From the Blessing of the Advent Wreath to Rorate Coeli we hear that the Lord is near and this silences the thunder of the outside rush. We pray for the Lord to return.

There is little doubt that the mystery and significance of the Incarnation is beyond what we look for in Advent. Beyond the miracle, without the Incarnation there is no Redemption. Without Redemption Jesus does not come again. Advent can easily get lost in the rush. On the other hand, Advent teaches us patience, a silence outside of the rush, a looking for and waiting for that which we may easily forget or lose when Christmas so quickly arrives.

Where did Advent go? This year Advent is almost over. Time is flying. Advent goes nowhere without coming from somewhere else. We will not be prepared, nor notice without waiting patiently, receiving the comfort of the Holy Scriptures. The day is nearer than when we first believed.

Drop down dew, ye heavens,from above,
and let the clouds rain the Just:
let the earth be opened
and bud forth a Saviour.

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