Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent is a Gift, not a Law

Here we go with the Advent Wars.  A lot of church people just don't get Advent.  "Why can't we sing Christmas carols?"  The newest lament is that children don't sing them in school so they don't learn them because we don't sing them enough in church.  My comeback, is "yea but then when will they learn Advent hymns?"  Plus I schedule Christmas hymns well into Epiphany.

And forget about holding off the Christmas decorations.  A few churches I've been able to save one or two Sundays for Advent only.  And usually people find the stark simplicity quite moving.  As long as they can have the tree up by Sunday School Program which has to be schedule in the middle of December because is out of town for Christmas.

And now the pastors are arguing about it.  Pastors are so competitive and so defensive.  If you aren't doing what I'm doing, you must be wrong.  Which really means, I may be wrong so I better tell you how wrong you are before you figure how wrong I really am. 

So you have the pastors who have been able to keep a pure Advent.  Of course they think that's all because they are such good pastors and able to whip their church into shape (no credit goes to the congregation at all or the context)  And they make the pastors who compromise feel defensive.

But now there is pushback and there are pastors who have decided in order to get the church to relate to the culture and be hip and all that - we need to just throw out Advent and get with the program.  Bring out the tree,  sing all the Christmas carols.  All in the name of being relevant to the culture.  No pastor ever just says "You know, I just got tired of fighting  and so I gave up"   And now pastors who are hanging on to Advent are on the defensive and must justify themselves.

Advent is a gift.  It is not a law.  And even if it were a law as Lutherans we are not justified by how pure we keep Advent, nor by being hip and "brave" enough to toss it out.

I'm still in the hang on to Advent camp, but I'm all for compromise.  If singing a few Christmas songs and putting up the tree early will help people experience the gift of Advent, by all means be "impure".  Lord knows Jesus broke a lot of purity laws.  One of my churches has all the decorations up.  But I took baby Jesus out of the manger and told them I was going to hide him until Christmas.   So they could have something to look forward to.  

It's a gift, people.  Don't fight over it.

1 comment:

  1. whew! what a good post... one of the places i serve was on a 'holiday tour of homes' so... last Sun, Advent 2 we were fully Christmas... but liturgy wise we're Adventing... with sprinkles of Christmas hymns. it works...