The Christmas season is here and it is without competition my favorite time of the year. For some reason this season brings me such joy and warmth. But this year something is weighing on me.
This holiday season I have been reflecting on the disconnect between our secular advent season and the Advent season of the Christian church and have been moved by the tension this disconnect creates.
As we have made our way through Advent so far, I have been moved by the characters the Gospel of Matthew has been forcing us to confront and the birth narrative we are about to live through. Whereas our general society’s advent season started with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center, moves through a billion dollar spending spree and a binging of all things sugar ending with a gregarious white-haired overweight super-giver providing us everything we want on our Christmas list, the advent in our churches is a stark contrast.
The Christian Church’s advent season began with an apocalyptic text, moved through a prophet coming out of the wilderness wearing wild clothing and speaking boldly who is eventually beheaded and ends with a poor Jewish family being stranded in the cold and pushed into a back alley stable and who are soon forced to become refugees in Egypt in order to flee a vicious dictator. The two worlds of our advent season couldn’t be more different and it poses an interesting question for us today – which one do we really adhere to?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Santa and all that our secular Christmas season offers but has it come at the expense of the other? Do we really care about the people and stories our Bible introduces us to or do we just tolerate them in order to get to the fun stuff? Has the adorableness of the children’s play sugarcoated the harshness of the actual story of Jesus’ birth?
As Christmas approaches I encourage all of us to intentionally sit with the Gospel text and really read the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. I encourage all of us to not only read the story but also imagine, dream or meditate on what the story looks, feels, and sounds like – let the five senses tell a story. Really dig deep and find the major issues that this story puts forth. Finally, take a moment and ask how the issues of the birth narrative intersect with issues in our world and lives today?
Instead of impatiently waiting for December 25th to arrive, let’s make use of this waiting period. I encourage us as a community to dive deeply into the story of Jesus’ birth and make it alive in our minds and hearts this season. There might be some tension experienced between the disconnect of the two but I believe we might be surprised at the affects this story has on our lives.
I hope each and every one of you have a blessed Advent season and a Merry Christmas.
Rev. Stephen Tickner