Decorating for Advent
I am decorating for Advent.
I am fascinated by those who are decorating for Christmas.
It is possible that I am persnickety on this point.
I raised (rose?) the ire of some when, a few days back, I facebooked a friend’s facetious post, namely that every time a Christmas tree is put up before Thanksgiving, an elf drowns a baby reindeer.
I added that the same is true when Christmas hymns are sung in Advent.
Few of my FB posts about economic disparities, slashes to education budgets, and our inadequate health care system get even a quarter of the comments that this one generated–comments either way, it must be said.
And I’m left to wonder about that.
I’m feeling protective of Advent in a particular way this year, though last year I was clearly irritable about it too.
Perhaps it’s the Occupy movement, the way that it is showing the plight of so many people (most people?) who are trying to make it and can’t.
Perhaps it’s the partner reality that some of the time we aren’t making it because we are overextended, financially and otherwise, and that we allow marketers to define what “making it” means.
Perhaps it’s because crowds of people stress me out, and I wonder about why there are crowds of people in some places, like malls, and not in other places, like serving food to the cold and homeless.
Perhaps it’s because I love good hymnody, and there is so much good Advent hymnody we never sing because “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”–good hymnody too, let it be said!–encroach on our allotted December hymn-singing moments.
Perhaps it’s that my children are old enough now to learn about the integrity of the church calendar, and its beauty, and its quiet rhythm. When I reach to get our advent wreath, it gives me an opportunity to explain to them that it isn’t a Christmas wreath, but an Advent wreath, and it involves patient waiting, and story telling, and wondering that Great Lutheran Question: “What does this mean?”
Perhaps it’s that I have always loved that after Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that the Lord favored her, she was perplexed and pondered.
She didn’t go into a frenzy, shopping or otherwise.
She surely didn’t think about pepper spraying anybody, I’ll tell you what, or walking blithely over somebody’s dead body at the ancient Middle Eastern version of Target during a sale that would have been held in the name of Yahweh.
And if she got up at midnight, it wasn’t to get a good deal on a lot of goods that will be forgotten.
Instead, she was perplexed and she pondered.
And then she acted.
Perhaps it’s because I fear that for all the incarnational richness of Christmas, it too often is reduced to an image of Jesus who “no crying he made,” (where is that in Scripture?) and grew up to be Jesus meek and mild (where is that in Scripture?).
Instead, I’m of a mind to believe that it’s in Advent when we hear the incarnational rubber hitting the eschatological road.
In other words, God-made-flesh is coming to enact God’s-agenda-made-promised.
Jesus’ birth means something.
And it might not come wrapped in a box with a bow either, you brood of vipers.
(John the Baptist’s’ Advent words, not mine).
And it’s there that I realize that it might be clear why Advent gets short shrift.
It attends to three things we in the US don’t particularly like: waiting, pondering, and, paradoxically, acting on what we say we believe after we’ve spend some time pondering it all.
More than merely attending to these three things, it really IS these three things. Advent IS waiting and pondering and acting.
It’s the whole point!
One can argue that Advent is a human construct, and to be legalistic about it is to be maniacally close-minded and unhelpfully rigid.
There is truth to that: at least the part about Advent being a human construct.
But I’m not so sure that that’s a bad thing.
Advent is like communal deep breathing, or a counter-cultural mass announcement that the Christian agenda is a different than Target’s/Macy’s/Amazon’s/Wal-Mart’s, a collective reminder of who we are–or are not, a gathered pause reconnecting us to anticipation rather than consumption, calm rather than mania, internal integrity rather than the fractured frenzy that this season tempts us to feel.
(And I’ve done a fine job of avoiding making any reference to “Occupy Advent,” haven’t I?)
I will not be decorating for Christmas.
Instead, I will decorate my home, and my spirit, and my family’s spirits, for Advent.