A grumpy Advent


Grumpy Advent
The author’s impression of a pastor hearing Christmas music during Advent.

By David Kamphuis

Originally posted Dec. 3, 2013, at The Fire Escape. Republished with permission of the author.

Many pastors, especially those out of liturgical traditions (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc.) are often grumpy come November. You see, in the non-church world, the Christmas season effectively begins after Halloween now. I think many people are a little bothered by “Jingle Bells” being played on the radio on Nov. 1. However, once Thanksgiving is done, the larger culture seems ready for the Christmas season.

Pastors, and those who are church-nerdy enough to care about the church year, aren’t ready for Christmas. Typically pastors will say, “It’s not Christmas yet! It is still Advent!”

So what is the deal with Advent? Advent is the season of the church that precedes Dec. 25. Advent lasts four weeks and is usually marked by the color blue or purple and the lighting of candles as the season moves forward. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word that means “coming.”

Coming of what? Like all good children’s sermons the answer is Jesus. Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. We are waiting for the coming of God. The Gospel of Matthew (drawing from the book of Isaiah) describes Jesus as “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Advent is the season in which we are waiting for God to come to us.

And that theme of waiting is why I think a lot of church nerds and pastors don’t like skipping straight to Christmas. Waiting is a key biblical theme. The people of Israel are waiting for God to come to free them from slavery in Egypt. When the people of Israel are in Exile, they are waiting to return home. In the Gospel of Luke, Simeon is “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). Finally, the whole story of Scripture ends on people waiting when John writes in Revelation, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” From beginning to end, the people of God are waiting.

And when we skip straight to Christmas we miss that waiting. The world is waiting, our society is waiting, and we miss a huge part of the story when we don’t admit that part of the story.

Find a link to David Kamphuis’ blog The Fire Escape at Lutheran Blogs.

You might also want to read:
I am so over John the Baptist
The season of holidays
Consider ‘eschatology’

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