According to the Advent Calendar – one with those little windows to open each day until Christmas – today is the first day of Advent. Beginning today and, depending on the calendar, each day until December 24 or December 25, we open a new window, each opening one day closer to the biggest and the best window. According to the liturgical calendar, Advent begins Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and continues until midnight on Christmas Eve.
According to Amazon and Wal-Mart, you’re running out of time and better start spending now. We used to count the shopping days ‘til Christmas. Now every hour of every day is potential shopping time. You’d better hurry up. Look how little time is left.
But what if Advent is not about so many purchases and so little time?
According to some, Advent is a time to take to the trenches, a time once more to fight the good fight against the forces of secularism. But the War Against Christmas, if there is such a thing, is not waged in the check-out line where clerks may say “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” or “have a good one.” The War Against Christmas is waged in our hearts and in our minds and on our calendars.
In Luke’s Gospel the people in the Judean hill country who are told of the birth of the baby to Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to have heard all these things and to have “laid them up in their hearts” (Luke 1:66). A chapter later, after the shepherds have returned to keeping watch over their sheep, Mary is said to have pondered in her heart all that had happened (Luke 2:19).
If we lay up in our hearts even for a moment concern as to whether Target is Christian enough in its advertising; if we ponder for a split second the devious meaning of a Starbucks cup, we have lost the War Against Christmas.
Advent is a time for opening our hearts to the mystery and the joy of the coming of Christ – and of his coming again. Advent begins on a somber note with dark shadows, the gloom of night, and the bleak of wintertime. In today’s reading from the Daily Office, Isaiah says “the earth staggers like a drunken man” (Isaiah 24:20). In Sunday’s reading we hear, “We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
The task of Advent is to lay up in our hearts, to ponder in them, our need for a Savior. It is to mourn the brokenness of our world and of our lives. It is to listen for an angel’s voice calling in the night bringing good news of great joy. It is hard work. We lose the War Against Christmas when we surrender to the rush to buy, the need to consume, the drive for “just right.”
What, then, are our weapons in the War Against Christmas? A daily devotional and regular reading of Scripture. LPC people will find devotional booklets in the Narthex and Chapel on Sunday. Here is a link to the Daily Office which provides a rich resource for reading the Word. There are many others. What, then, is our strategy for winning the War Against Christmas? Lord’s Day worship and fellowship within the household of faith. Service to our world and community in the name of the Christ who came and who will come again. Pondering and laying up.
The War Against Christmas is waged in our hearts and in our minds and on our calendars. Those with courage to fight the battle must give themselves much time to ponder and to lay up in their hearts. They must trudge through the discouraging reminders that our world staggers like a drunken man, that our lives are like dry leaves blown by the winds of iniquity. Only by such hard work will they gain the heights where they are able to hear the angel voices and behold the little town of Bethlehem with its cattle stall and manger bed.
Forget the countdown. We have all the time we need.
See you Sunday!