My Christmas tree went up on November 8—yes, you read that right! And why not? What’s not to love about Christmas? Okay, so I know there’s a lot not to love about Christmas. The ‘silly season’ has a way of taking over and stress kicks in as we try to juggle all the end of year responsibilities and events, never mind organising gifts for family and arranging who will be where and with whom at what time on Christmas Day. There’s the pressure to spend money you don’t have so as not to disappoint, or worse, spend the same as others to maintain some semblance of misappropriated dignity. Long-held family tensions and relationship strain often rise to the surface when everyone’s together. Underlying grief surfaces. Sometimes, Christmas can be a complete anti-climax.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. A few years ago, I decided to reclassify Christmas once and for all. Maybe you’d like to join me? Traditionally, Advent is ‘a season in the mainstream Christian calendar observed in many churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus’. Sounds much better doesn’t it! For me, choosing to set aside the Santa, consumerism and expectations of the picture-perfect family scene and focus instead on the Christmas story, as outlined in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation, has been liberating. Even as a corps officer, I frequently missed this season because I usually allowed myself to get caught up in the busyness of helping others have a good Christmas, and the assumed responsibility for ensuring others were focusing on Jesus. (Just a gentle little nudge to those leading others, don’t miss out on Advent!)
But wait, there’s even more to Advent! It’s not just about preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth, it’s also a reminder that Jesus is coming—again! When we celebrate Advent, we’re not behaving as though his birth never happened and we’re somehow reliving it. We’re reminding ourselves that Jesus IS. Revelation 1 tells us that Jesus is ‘the Alpha and Omega … who is, and was and who is to come, the Almighty’. Jesus was there at the beginning as the Logos (Word), and he existed for eons before the will of the Father determined he be born in flesh and moved into our neighbourhood. Jesus walked the earth and showed us what love looked like, then died on the cross in our place so we could be restored to right relationship with God. Jesus conquered death and rose again on the third day, and ate and drank with his disciples before ascending to heaven where he sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. And of course, he sent his Spirit so that we would never be alone and he would always be with us, just as he promised.
Yes, Christmas is about the baby in the manger, but Advent is about so much more! Forget the tinsel and the turkey, the money and the madness. This Christmas, Jesus IS. And that’s a fact worth getting excited about, meditating on, celebrating and sharing with others. Happy Christmas preparation!