Sunday, November 27, 2005

Advent


Luke 1:26-35 (New Living Translation)

26In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you”
29Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don't be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you! 31You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.”
35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”


I went up to Wal-Mart a couple of days ago to see if the rumors were true. I’d heard that Wal-Mart employees had been instructed not to use the words “Merry Christmas.” When I was checking out at one of the cash registers I asked the clerk if she was allowed to say “Merry Christmas.” She didn’t answer. I tried putting it another way. “Don’t you think it would be good if Wal-Mart employees responded kind?” I asked. “For instance, if I were to say, “Happy Holidays,” I think it would be appropriate for you to answer, “Happy Holidays.” If I were to say, “Happy Hanukkah” I think “Happy Hanukkah” would be a fine answer. And, if I were to say, “Merry Christmas” I don’t think it would be counter-productive for you to say……” I paused, giving her time to respond. All I got was a blush.

Advent is upon us. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. The Halloween silliness has passed. Thanksgiving has now ushered in this wonderful season. The folks at Wal-Mart, Target, et all, notwithstanding, it’s a time far more beautiful, far more profound than watching news footage of people fighting over laptops or being crushed in the shopping madness.

I read yesterday that Wal-Mart was close to being ecstatic about their Black Friday sales results. The cash registers are ringing and they don’t even have to say “Merry Christmas.” By the time January rolls around, profits will soar and retail executives will celebrate wildly. But, something will be missing. While the corporate bottom lines will be bathed in black ink, the bottom lines of many American hearts will be robbed of something special, beautiful, and wonderful.

I read something this morning from Frederick Buechner’s “Listening to Your Life” this morning, and given the tenor of the times, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you at the start of this wonderful season:

“Advent” means “coming” of course, and the promise of Advent is that what is coming is an unimaginable invasion. The mythology of our age has to do with flying saucers and invasions from outer space, and that is unimaginable enough. But what is upon us now is even more so – a close encounter not of the third kind but of a different kind altogether. An invasion of holiness. That is what Advent is about.”

“What is coming upon the world is the Light of the World. It is Christ. That is the comfort of it. The challenge of it is that it has not yet come. Only the hope for it has come, only the longing for it. In the meantime we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are.”

And so I wait, not for the profit and loss statements or the stock market reaction to the season. I wait like Buechner, in the darkness, knowing that the Consolation of Israel has broken into history, bringing us hope, and will once more.

7 comments:

Kevin said...

A few comments/points:

1. Adventism in a theological sense has much more to do with Christ's second coming or return than it does with His birth. The theological subset of Protestantism is focused on the second coming. The Christmas "advent" is another invention of Catholicism. That's a simple fact, not a snide derision or statement of anti-Catholic bigotry.

2. "Christmas" is a Catholic-invented holiday. As is "All Saints Day" aka: Halloween. Both are pagan in origin and remain largely pagan in imagery.

3. Although there remains a great deal of disagreement and confusion... many theologians agree that the closest estimate of when Jesus Christ was actually born to Mary is sometime in either January or February in the modern calendar. The sole theological source for Jesus having been born in December is the Catholic church.

When I see American Christians getting all spun up about political correctness surrounding Christmas it just confirms how ignorant of the truth many of us really are.

If people want to celebrate Christmas I say more power to them! I celebrate it with my children and my parents celebrated it when I was a kid... as a strictly secular holiday.

But let's at least be honest about what Christmas really is. It is not a holy day. It is not Jesus' birthday. It is a converted pagan holy day that has morphed into a secular celebration of consumerism.

No glory is brought upon Jesus by humanity following artificial traditions.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Kevin

Go ahead and be miserable. Go ahead and bash Catholics. Whether Jesus birth was in December, May, June, or July wouldn't change that. You're just a disagreeable person.

We Christians, of all stripes, will still celebrate the FACT that Jesus was born.

Kevin said...

Phil:

I'm not miserable at all. Although your reaction to my pointing out the truth gives some small clues as to why you might wish that I was miserable.

I'll leave you with this nugget:

32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 (NIV)

dog1net said...

Phil:
As I have always understood it, Advent is the beginning of the church year for most western tradition churches. It is a time of hope, expectation and fulfillment. And I think that's what I'm beginning to miss about Christmas--the events and ceremonies that lead up to the celebration of Christmas. But our western traditions that we used to celebrate are slowly being done away with. Here in Belfast, we do not have Christmas lights, nor do we have a Christmas tree. Instead we have "holiday lights" and a "holiday tree." Never thought it would come to the day that I'd catch myself saying, "Bah, humbug." Christmas, is not necessarily a "Catholic-invented holiday," as Kevin seems to insist, but instead is derived from both secular and religious celebrations throughout the world. To think that we must now celebrate "Holiday" so that we don't offend other culures or religions is one yule-phemism I'm taking a pass on.
Merry Christmas,
Scot

4given4ever said...

We really should celebrate Jesus' birth EVERY day; not just on Christmas day. Although it doesn't matter when Jesus was born as long as we celebrate his birth. But it's true about people "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". We've taken the Christ out of everything else; schools, etc. But as for me, I'm saying "Merry Christmas!" And I am a Wal-Mart employee and I've NEVER been told not to say that.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

James Harrington, a Lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Loyola University, Chicago, authored a piece posted at the Tech Control website entitled, "The Flawed Philosophy of Intelligent Design," in which he concluded with, "The problem with Intelligent Design is that it is dumb." My posted comment follows:

The universe, itself, furnishes a kind of I.Q. Test for every level of human Knowledge, Ignorance, Intelligence, and Vanity.

Every human being is born into an ego-centric predicament; a self-centered, continual waking-moments experience. Since we are not the actual center of the universe it means we are always inaccurate by varying degrees in our perceptions, assumptions, and conclusions. Falsity is built into each individual experience. To say otherwise is to maintain and perpetuate our own personal lack.

No exit from our predicament can be found that is personal, the actual center, and worthy to displace our human center - except the Creator who has taken the intiative to make Himself known: the God of the Judeo-Christian who made us in His own image as earth's Choicemaker.

Our own ego is the greatest barrier to our growth as humans. Acknowledging our vain bias is the primary movement toward a larger perception of Reality, knowing that in this world we will never possess the whole.

Too many self-professed scientists enter into a theocratic position accurately entitled Scientism.; a prioritized 'worship' of human opinion about nature. Such a viewpoint participates in the limited (visible-light?) human acceptance of unrecognized reality. "If I can't see it, it doesn't exist."

As a former humanist, I was long overdue in recognizing my own universe-sized ignorance and my shoebox-sized knowledge.I never really began to grow until I met The Actual Center and gravitated away from my own barrier: ego. He is worthy.

Consider:
"For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful : but, became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." sELAH

Romans 1:20-22 KJV

MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone!
Jim Baxter
P.S.
I don't claim to be wise but I am a former Fool.

Doctor Life said...

God Bless you. Sir - you have a wonderful, WONDERFUL, blog. Keep up the excellent work and keep loving our Lord. God Bless you. Again. Ha ha.