Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy New Year!

While the civil calendar begins on January 1, the Church Year begins on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the fourth Sunday before Christmas. So Happy New Year! The Western world, and even many Christians have forgotten Advent for so long that in some churches, several generations have grown up without even hearing of it. Even if we are vaguely uneasy about what has become of our Christmas celebrations, many of us are unaware of just what it is we are missing.
Christmas becomes for many people a secular holiday that begins at Thanksgiving and comes to an end shortly after dinner on December 25th. Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, even Christmas services of lessons and carols are held from early December on, building to an almost anti-climactic series of services on December 24th and 25th. Those who insist on waiting to celebrate Christmas when it actually arrives... are often dismissed as modern day Ebenezer Scrooges, who thought Christmas was humbug and did not even care that Advent existed. Sadly, much is lost in this popular reordering of the Church year. In fact, Christmas itself is impoverished.

By celebrating Christmas from the beginning of December on, we override Advent and lose it. And this is a terrible loss. Advent sets before us the powerful unfolding of God's plan for all of history, a plan that culminates not in the first coming of Christ, but in his second coming. Without Advent, Christmas is all too easily reduced to a sentimental story about a baby. When Advent is swamped and washed away by the premature celebration of Christmas, we lose something more: we lose the gifts of expectation and anticipation.

Full Homely Divinity, Rediscovering Advent

Read more about Advent, and some things your family can do to help restore it, in the Advent Carnival.

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