Advent is not another word for Christmas!
The culture seems to start “the holidays” earlier and earlier each year with music and decorations. At its best it’s about a nice sentimental feeling. At its worst –– all the commercialization –– it’s about money.
Christians in the free-church tradition do not help very much. While their celebration is quite sincere (and often elaborate and wonderful), it misses at least three things. First, it misses being in rhythm with the greater history of Christian Faith (a loss that is incomprehensible until it begins to be understood). Second, it misses the spiritual power (and benefit) of patiently waiting. Third, it blends –– even though unintentionally –– into the spirit of the age as the world rushes into its own forms of “celebration.”
The irony is that many ecclesial communities today which are outside the Church Year of the liturgical tradition have “discovered Advent” –– or at least they have discovered the word. Some mark the four Sundays of Advent and have candles with the right colors.... even as traditional Christmas songs fill the services along with cantatas and larger extravaganzas. But as soon as December 26 comes it’s over; Christmas, which has just begun in the Church Year, is non-existent. A few free-church congregations might remember to sing We Three Kings on Epiphany if they even notice the day (but my guess it is not very many).
Advent is meant to be a time of preparation.... a time to reflect on God’s promises which are yet to be fulfilled.... a time to think about just how badly we need to be saved.... a time to be still and know that I am God.
As the world tries to revel in circumstantial happiness.... as many Christians rush the season.... can we remember that Advent is not another word for Christmas?!