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To the Saints that are in Los Osos,
December is a time when we clergy tend to love to write our columns. Many Conservatives and moderates call us to “put the Christ back in Christmas,” while some progressives may suggest that it is more important to “put the Christ back in Christians.” Some of us periodically remind their churches that “Xmas” does not replace Christ but is an ancient and appropriate abbreviation when one understands that the Greek letter chi, (the first letter of the Greek word for Christ), looks just like the English letter “X.”
Some will claim that the phrase “Happy Holidays” is a deliberate slight to Christians and perhaps even assert that there is a “War on Christmas.” (There isn’t). At least every couple of years we rail against the commercialism that has overtaken Christmas. From across the theological spectrum we point out that Jesus does get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. (One of my favorite seasonal jokes is the child who prays the Lord’s Prayer, (and forgive us our Christmases as we forgive those who Christmas against us.”)
Then there are those of us of a liturgical bent who sometimes write about how we no longer use the Church’s gift of Advent as a season of reflection and preparation and jump straight into Christmas the day after Thanksgiving leaving us to sick of Christmas to celebrate the twelve days.
There… I think I’ve covered most of the columns I have written in the past and most that I will read in colleague’s newsletters this year. You’ve read them before. This year I want to write a little about Advent itself. The word itself means basically, “arrival.” Traditionally we think of it as a time to prepare for that arrival. Often we focus on the arrival of the Christ child at Christmas. If we read the lectionary, that program of readings shared by millions of Christians across the globe, we find that the readings are more focused on Jesus arrival in the second coming than on the birth.
In most churches we have Advent wreaths with four colored candles that mark the progress of the season. In the majority of churches the candles, the banners, and the paraments are purple which is the color the Church uses to signify repentance and even mourning. I have always preferred the Sarum rite for Advent. The Sarum rite is what was used in England until the 16th century. In this usage, the cloths and the candles are blue, which represent hope.
Advent is a season of hope as much as of preparation or repentance. It is a reminder as it leads to Christmas that hope as well as love was incarnated in Jesus. It is a reminder that as we look forward to the second advent of Jesus that hope will meet us in the end. These reminders are meant to help us find hope right now in whatever circumstances might surround us.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy
Spirit.” Romans 15:13. May your Advent be filled with Hope, may your Christmas
be filled with Joy, and may your New Year be filled with Peace and Love.
See you in church,