Hey there, weary Christian! Are you a retail employee disillusioned by the singleminded zeal of shoppers determined to spread the spirit of giving, come hell or high water? Are you a stressed out churchgoer searching for that perfect donation to foist upon your local nonprofit, because poor little Timmy’s Christmas will be ruined if you can’t personally deliver him the right teddy bear and see his face light up? Give that season of giving a rest! I present you with Advent: the Christian alternative to the Christmas season.
Dare to leave American civil religion’s one and only liturgical season off your calendar! After all, the cultural trappings of the Christmas season do not date back to the birth of Christ. In fact, many of them do not date past the fifties. If more authentic celebration is what you’re after, give the season of non-celebration a try!
Family get-togethers and office parties stressing you out? Advent has no holiday cheer required! So go ahead and respond to that party invitation by saying, “Sorry, I need to sit alone.” Feel liberated to act out that instinct to respond to the question “What do you want for Christmas?” by running away, shutting yourself in your room, and pondering the question’s deep existential ramifications. Just stay in there awhile. Don’t let incessant carolers break your Advent spirit!
Ever stare into the deep darkness of lengthening winter nights and just feel like staring some more, instead of declaring war on winter and fortifying your house with blue glowing icicles and a lit-up Santa Claus? Advent is the season for you! Let that darkness symbolize your pain and strife, then sit with it awhile. Ponder what needs illuminating. As the interim associate pastor at my home church put it, Advent is the moment you strike a match and wait to see if it lit. Revel in the fragility of that hope! It doesn’t have to be the most wonderful time of the year!
And if you like Advent, try Christmas, the week and a half set aside for celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior conveniently timed to coincide with the end of the stressful holiday season. Run through the streets with your children singing “O Holy Night” to your heart’s content while society rests from the holiday frenzy.
And later, in August, when the non-profits are really strapped for donations in civil religion’s off-season, then you can take up that spirit of giving and cut your local homeless shelter a hefty check.