Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Only Advent - And I'm Not Giving That Up

Last week my mom said something to Andrew (my youngest brother). He said, "Sounds like someone isn't in the Christmas spirit!" My reply echoed my button, "That's because 'It's only Advent." Mom immediately said, "You need to let that go." I guess that was Sunday night.
Monday afternoon I had my first follow up appointment with my oral surgeon after I'd had my wisdom teeth out. He walked in asking me if I was a seminarian and I told him that I would be next year. Neither of us recalls my telling him those were my plans, and he didn't talk to Mom about it while I was out. No idea how he knew. Anyway, he goes to change the stuffing in my mouth and asks where I'm applying and such.
His wife comes in and asks if I have German heritage. She's also his nurse/first assistant. I tell her no. Then she tells me about how when they lived in Bavaria - which was a Catholic area - there was a sharp contrast between Advent Season and Christmass Season. She was commenting on my button. I told her about how my priest is a big stickler about keeping the two separate. And I said that I agreed and that to skip to Christmas was to miss what the Church has given us as a time of preparation. The surgeon got almost passionate saying that he thought I was right, that liturgy was important, that the Church year is important, and something to the effect of the problem with the American church has been the lack of reference when seeking to encounter the Almighty. Then he said that I wasn't there for his theology but to get my mouth healing.
It's only Advent, still. Christmas might be three days away, but it's only Advent. And I'm not giving that up, even if my mom wants me to. While Advent to the Western Church may NOT be a "Little Lent," it is a time of willful suspension of disbelief. It's a time of mystery, wonder, hope, and (in my mind) mystical events. We pray, "O come, o come Emmanuel" as though we know not that Emmanuel has come, is coming, and will come. The week of Thanksgiving someone had as their Facebook status that they were singing Christmas music. I commented they it wasn't even Advent yet. They reply was that it's never a wrong time to sing about the Birth of our Savior (or something to that effect).
I didn't reply. On the one hand, I think "Yes, there is," for multiple reasons. While it's certainly not bad to give thanks for the miracle of the incarnation, it is not what we remember every Sunday (Sundays being the weekly commemoration of the Resurrection). In the same way that Fr. Jeff suggests that going to church on Passion/Pam Sunday and Easter (but not Good Friday) only tells part of the story (the Triumphal Entry one week followed by the Resurrection the next), I think that jumping so quickly to the Feast of the Nativity only tells part of the story.
The Church has given us major feast days. Just before Advent, at the end of the Church year, we have Reign of Christ Sunday, on which we think about Christ's eternal reign and that miracle of salvation that happened in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. We think about the day when, in the fullness of time, all things will be put under Christ's subjection.
For most of the church year we, not quite celebrate, but live the mundaneness, if you will, of every day life. Ordinary time. The season after Pentecost. Green time that I get sick of. But life isn't just a series of highs. There are lows and LOTS of in between time during which we grow. To think about Christmas - without preparing ourselves for what it entails - is to jump in life. It's to forget the preparation we need for major events in our lives, like graduating for college. It's also in my mind an encouragement of hastiness and impatience. America...America. Patience is something it would be good for us to relearn.
It's only Advent. It's a mystical time when the weather (ideally) is colder (while it may've been getting colder for months other places, here, it really starts to cool of early in December) which is mystical to me in itself. It's a time of hearing NOT about the birth of Christ, but of a crazy herald who late locusts and honey and railed against vipers broods; who gained a following; who urged us to prepare the way of the Lord. It's a time of hearing NOT about the birth of Christ, but rather those who had to get ready for it themselves - Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth - and what preparations they had to make themselves, from Joseph's not divorcing Mary to her, "Here I am[!]"
It's only Advent. And I'm not giving that up.

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