Every year about this time, we start to hear about the “War on Christmas.”
The idea is that somehow Christmas is the one legitimate winter holiday, and merely wishing someone a generic “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” is an attack on Christmas and, by extension, Christianity, Jesus, and God.
Laying aside the fact that cultures have been marking the time around the solstice since long before the birth of Jesus, I would like to gently remind the Christmas Warriors about something relevant to this issue:
It is not yet Christmas.
Amid the decorations, music, parties, and shopping, it may be easy to forget that Christmas Day is December 25. While we’re singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” we might forget those twelve days fall between December 25 and January 6.
And we’re not there yet.
Those churches that observe liturgical seasons are celebrating Advent. The season of Advent – which is actually the beginning of the liturgical year – is one of waiting, of anticipation. While many churches now use blue for Advent, the traditional color was once purple, the same as Lent.
And there’s good reason for this: Like Lent, Advent was once a time of repentance and fasting in preparation for the arrival of Jesus.
When I was growing up, our church didn’t observe the liturgical seasons, so I didn’t know about Advent. But I did know about Santa Claus. And for children, the time before Christmas can still be one of waiting, of anticipation, and of repentance. During this time, I would want to be on my best behavior for Santa. While that’s not a great theological truth, it does give me a basis for thinking about how I can reflect on my life during this time of year.
So maybe it’s time for Christians to take a stand in the “War on Advent” and reclaim the fasting and repentance of the season. Perhaps this year will be the one when we take a few weeks to think about the past year and where we’ve been or the next year and where we’re headed.
And the next time someone corrects us with “IT’S MERRY CHRISTMAS!” maybe we can respond with “and a blessed Advent to you.”
Cindi Knox is a licensed minister with the Fox Valley Association of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ, and is in search of her first call as pastor and teacher in the United Church of Christ. In addition to writing for New Sacred, she also writes for RevGalBlogPals, does pulpit supply, and volunteers with a queer youth drop-in. She lives in Joliet with her spouse of over 25 years, Mary. Find her at http://facebook.com/cindik.online