At this festive season of the year, a correspondent wonders, "How do you keep Christmas from taking over Advent?"
It is the eternal question, and since the holidays have brought just two answers from our Matriarchs, I hope others will chime in via the comments.
First, let's hear from Ann Fontaine:
Advent is the greatest of seasons for me - immersing myself in the
whole darkness theme of wrapping oneself in the blanket of night,
under the quilt of stars, and meditating on the cave of my heart,
seeds in the earth, babies awaiting birth from the womb and other
assorted dark places.
It is my little counter cultural season - a great excuse not to think
about Christmas until it is before me - gifts can be given during the
12 days - until Epiphany - Jan 6 and they are on sale then! Cards can
be sent out until Easter - early this year BTW - then you just reply
to the ones you have received. Cuts down on postage and one finds out
who really cares. At church they will all whinge about not getting
to sing carols - but don't give in except for the pageant that has to
be done before the kids take their Christmas break. Everyone is sick
of them anyway by a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving - so maybe
they will thank you for the Advent minor key unsingable ones!
Seriously -- I might let a carol or 2 sneak in as we approach
Christmas - and the children's pageant is good for an all out carol
sing. I also put together a Service of Solace (sometimes called Blue
Christmas) for some time in the week or so before Christmas for those
who are not have a so merry time of it.
I really do like Advent and wish my favorite book Night Visions by
Jan Richardson had not gone out of print so you could love it too.
And now, some thoughts from Jan Edmiston:
What Easum & Bandy would say (if I may be so bold to offer their thoughts secondhand): Most people seeking a spiritual home do it in December and they don't know/want/understand Advent. They want to hear Christmas carols and see little kids dressed like angels and sheep. So, go with Christmas, minimize Advent, and follow up on your December visitors.
What I would say: Like children, we want Christmas now, but even God says, "wait" (hence: Advent). People really truly seem to want to focus on "the real meaning of Christmas" which is best done before maxing out all the cards and tearing your hair out (i.e. during Advent). This is a very difficult time for people. And Jesus was born into a context in which it was a very difficult time for people. Go with that. Explain why Jesus came and what it means to be saved. Who doesn't need someone to save them this season?
And . . . some Christmas carols are quite Advent-friendly.
Thanks to Ann and Jan!
If your church is liturgical, or marginally so, how do you cope with this? Those of you in non-liturgical traditions, do you feel the same pressure to rush to Christmas once the mall is decorated?
And what say you to the question that has been provoking me for the past couple of years. Wherever you stand on the separation of secular and sacred Christmas, there's no question that children are getting only one part of the tradition in the public arena. Given that many families may travel on Christmas Eve, particularly in these past few years when it fell on a weekend or adjacent to one, if we save the whole story for the 24th, are they ever going to hear it? When will they learn to sing the music that older church members (and I include myself in this) heard all over the place when we were young?
I look forward to your thoughts. Gallycat should be back with you next week!