Happy New Year! The Lord’s Day (November 29th), the First Sunday of Advent, began a new liturgical year. Customarily, Advent is when we begin looking forward to our coming celebration of the remembrance of Christ’s “Advent” - or coming – into the world. We begin looking forward to an already accomplished historical fact. It can get very complicated if you think about it too much. But I digress.
We need not get obsequious about all that, or meetings in the hall where we say “Merry Christmas” to each other could quickly degenerate into quibbling that quenches the Spirit. To those who keep the Church calendar, it is technically speaking not “Christmas” yet. That is why some liturgically minded Christians might correct you if you say “Merry Christmas” to them during this season of Advent. It is not Christmas yet, so their thinking goes. That begins on Christmas Day – December 25 – and is celebrated for 12 days until Epiphany! That is the custom that gave birth to Shakespeare’s famous play “Twelfth Night” and the song we love to sing!
I keep meaning to start celebrating Christmas each of the 12 days of the season, instead of the “one and done” way as was our custom growing up. But, the power of family tradition is strong...and new traditions are difficult! Reminds me of the way in which we had to decide for ourselves, as newlyweds, when we would decorate the tree for our young family. Family traditions during this time are important.
It was customary for me and my family to decorate the tree at the beginning of Advent – so we could see it all month long, and we had no definite day to take it down. But my new wife and her family decorated it on Christmas Eve and kept it up until Epiphany. What is more important – looking forward longer and packing it all into one day, or less anticipation but spreading the joy out over 12 days? Profound presuppositions of human psychology and Christian anthropology are implicated in these simple decisions. How do we craft our character in the traditions we celebrate?
That is the point I want to reflect upon with you this year. The way we celebrate Christmas is a cultural liturgy – as described by popular Christain apologist James Smith. In these “works of the people” we need to be looking for God’s Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Because, it is only if God works in our work – by divine concursus, as the theologians of old used to argue – that we can hope to be crafting our souls, and the souls of our children, and community into a more Christlike form. More cruciform lives ought to be the goal!
That is my hope as we look at all these different sorts of issues, and move forward through these difficult distressful times. We want to craft the character of our community in a way that draws people to the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness of Christ, in contrast to evil ugliness of the world and its so-called “Noble Lies” told over and over again until the people actually believe them. Christmas is when we remember when Christ, the light of the world, came into the darkness. May this Truth flood the “dark night of our soul” today, and give us the “Armor of Light” that we need to go on fighting the good fight of faith, against the world, the Flesh and the devil, in the Beauty of His holiness!
Happy Advent and may you and yours have a Merry Christmas!
~Dr. David Kester