Advent is the missing season in most of our churchy lives. The commercial world is pushing Christmas at us before Hallowe'en, and Black Friday has engulfed Thanksgiving. Ever earlier, Christmas music gets piped into stores and airport gate areas.
And we decorate our churches so they look pretty... 'cause the whole dang world is decorating and looking pretty. We can't be left behind, can we?
But every now and then the real world, vs. the hyped and cosmetized one, invades our manufactured prettiness. It may remind us that Advent should be a season of earnest longing. Instead of decorated trees and strings of real looking evergreen sprigs, perhaps our churches should be as bare as we can ever make them.
Come, Jesus. My broken heart desperately needs you. This 1969 hymn says it better than I ever could. Do we have the guts to sing it, the humility and honesty to pray it? I hope so.
EACH WINTER AS THE YEAR GROWS OLDER
by William and Annabeth Gay
Each winter as the year grows older,
We each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.
When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.
Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.
So even as the sun is turning
To journey to the north,
The living flame, in secret burning,
Can kindle on the earth
And bring God's love to birth.
O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today's world by tomorrow's,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!
The Mayan calendar never said what many people heard. But the ancient calendar that the church of the centuries and millennia has handed down to us has something we need to hear. The church of old always understood the juxtaposition of the Nativity. God's gift of life born into a world broken and deadly.
Consider the dates:
December 25. The Nativity
December 26. Remembrance of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
December 27. John the Evangelist, exiled
December 28. The Holy Innocents. Herod vs. the children...
Lord Jesus, come and reign! Amen.