Guilty Advent pleasures

By Ann Fontaine

Only one week into Advent and the cry goes out to “keep Advent. ” Don’t let us hear any Christmas carols or start decorating. Don’t be like THOSE people who don’t know their liturgical seasons and have been decorating since the end of summer.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like the idea of the season of Advent. The idea of a quiet withdrawal into meditation on one’s relationship to Jesus the Christ, the incarnate God – to be born again at Christmas and in our lives – is lovely. I am not so fond of the doom and gloom end times pronouncements of some of the readings. The whole idea of quiet and retreat sounds lovely.

But the truth is I love the excitement of Christmas, the gaudy yard displays, the carols on the Musak™. I can’t get enough of it. I want it to last from Halloween/All Saints until Epiphany or maybe even Lent. It is my guilty secret when confronted by all the serious minded church folks admonishing me not to be lured into premature outbursts of song and merriment.

God born into our lives in Jesus is the reason for Christianity. It is the most amazing event in history. God, who could stay at a distance, chooses to enter into the messiness of our lives. Chooses to dance and party, live and die and live again, laugh and cry, heal and suffer just as we do. What could be better than to celebrate that as long as possible?

The mad frenzy of the season is like first love. Eventually it becomes exhausting and we need Lent to recover our balance, but why dampen down the enthusiasm now – as the dark is growing longer in the Northern hemisphere? Why not savor this time?

My favorite example of the season is the lighted yard displays that begin to appear around Thanksgiving. Slowly the neighbors string the lights around the house and all manner of objects appear on the lawn. The current favorites include inflatable Santas, snowmen and women, and huge snow globes with moving objects inside. Every TV special has a place – Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown. Each year brings new ideas of what or who should be added. One year it was The Lion King, another Pokemon and friends. What will it be this year?

In the midst of all the lights and figures, one finds a crèche. The Holy Family (often plastic with lights inside of them), Shepherds, Angels and Magi (oh no not before Epiphany – yes!). gather around the infant. This is so true to life – in the midst of the craziness of life – we find holiness. We shop, trying to find the right gifts for our beloveds – gifts that will show them how much we love them and how deeply we know them –only to fail in the enterprise. But as we shop perhaps someone holds the door for us and our burdens, or a friend offers us a cup of tea to restore us. Right there, that’s it, God is in our midst.

Christmas used to be a terrible time for me. Now I hope I have a more balanced view. I can multi-task – an Advent time of contemplation mixed with the joy of the coming Christmas. I can sing O Come O Come Emmanuel AND Joy To The World on the same day. I can delight in the preparations and music of Christmas while taking time to be still and let the silence calm my days.

Have Yourself a Dismal Little Advent
(An Advent Carol?)

Have yourself a dismal little Advent,

Filled with guilt and gloom.

You’ve got these four weeks

to contemplate your doom.

Turn down all those party invitations;

Mustn’t celebrate;

You should stay home fasting, and self-flagellate.

Shun the lure of the shopping mall,

Where they’ve decked the hall since May.

Just recall it’s the eschaton

You must focus on today.

It’s no time for singing Christmas carols;

That we can’t allow!

Chant Psalm 51, if you remember how–

And have yourself a dismal little Advent now!

Mary W. Cox
December 17, 1992

Hat tip to Scott Gunn

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, Diocese of Wyoming, keeps what the tide brings in. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible.

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