12 December 2008

It Makes Me Sad

It makes me sad that even Christians would view the beautiful season of Advent as though it were a threat to their fun, and as though Advent were somehow devoid of Christ and His peace. Part of me rankles at being viewed as a "Scrooge" for rejoicing in the comforting Word of the Gospel that is particular to Advent Tide, but mainly it saddens me that so many people miss out on that proclamation altogether. One gets the impression, at times, that it is simply impossible to celebrate the coming of Christ without evergreen trees, electric lights, parties and pastries and shopping binges. I wonder how anyone manages to "celebrate" the Resurrection of our Lord, then, without such trees and trappings. Apparently it is only some of the seasons of the Church Year that are preferably boycotted, to whatever extent possible.

Ah, well, whatever. I really don't mind too much what people choose to do in their own homes; and of course the world is going to go it's own way, in any case. We Christians live in the joyous freedom of the Gospel, and every blessed child of God is welcome to do whatever will best confess his or her faith and life in Christ. Mainly I grow weary of being scolded every year, both for what I do (and choose not to do), and for things that don't even remotely reflect what I actually think or say or do. I guess I should be used to it by now.

It is amazing, though, isn't it, how those who can't wait to start celebrating "Christmas" as early as possible, can't wait to be done with it by the time the holy season actually begins.

As though anything other than the Word of God makes any day anything other than what it is.


Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

I have thought a little about this since the related discussion on Blackbirds, and I'm wondering if some of what might be seen as an early celebration of Christmas, such as lights, evergreens, and generic winter themed decorations isn't so much a premature celebration of Christmas as simply decorating for the winter season. So, for example, in the fall we put out a harvest-themed door hanging and use pumpkin style mugs and plates; in the spring we have tulip and daffodil decorations. In the winter, why not put up lights and evergreen, simply as a cheery way of contrasting with the relative dreariness of the season?

In other words, I wonder how much of this is even a theological question at all. To be sure, there are things that contrast or even violate the theme of Advent, such as some parties, pastries, and shopping binges. Yet perhaps it is not as theological as we have made it out to be.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

All of that makes sense to me, and, although it may not seem this way, I don't really mind the decorations and so forth that many people enjoy. To each his own.

My frustration has to do with the way such things are seemingly pitted against the particular emphases of Advent. Perhaps not with any theological intention, fair enough, but that is how it often comes across to me. All the more so when so many of the decorations and such that have gone up in late November and early December are put away shortly after Christmas begins.

But your point is well-taken. I really don't have any desire to cramp or criticize anyone else's style. Mainly, I wish I didn't end up feeling, every year, as though I should apologize for my own efforts to observe Advent.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Or, perhaps my real problem is that I (unrealistically) wish that people WERE more theological about what they do to mark the seasons.

WM Cwirla said...

Advent can be a bit melancholy at times. Personally, it's one of my favorite seasons - great hymns, great readings, extra services, more candles. Much of what might appear to be premature Christmas in our home is simply preparation for Christmas. Twelve days takes a bit of preparation, you have to admit.

Shoot, we're not even having our congregation's annual Christmas dinner and variety show until Jan 4th! And the tree never hits the curb or the compost heap until Epiphany.

Since there's no Word of God on any of this stuff, just lighten up. You'll feel a lot less sad.

Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

Granted that people should be more theological, but is putting up winter decorations opposed to Advent? Even in the church Advent has its evergreens and lights. Here I'm not trying to defend the commercial exploitation and violation of Christmas which truly does celebrate Christmas too early. Rather, I'm simply saying that, for example, to decorate the home to some extent already in Advent doesn't necessarily oppose the season.

I certainly share in your disappointment when the celebration of Christmas is cut way too short.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Pastor Cwirla, the preparations that you have described (on your own blog, and on our Blackbirds blog) all seem quite appropriate and helpful to me, even where they differ from my own preparations.

I can't honestly put my finger on what it is that frustrates me so. I do get tired of the comments I hear every year, which imply in one way or another that I'm the "Grinch" who stole Christmas. I love Christmas, and I do my best to celebrate it as fully as possible. But I also love and appreciate Advent, which I also find to be meet, right and salutary. Repentance isn't a dirty or depressing word in my dictionary; it points me to Christ, which is the purpose of this preparatory season.

You are right that I do need to "lighten up," even though my aggravations are not what most people seem to think. If I could "lighten up," I'm sure that I and everyone around me would be happier. Precisely THAT is part of my own need for repentance.

Thanks for your comments, here and elswhere. Your series on Advent on your blog was great, I thought.

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Pastor Grobien, I appreciate your comments, also, and I really don't disagree with your points.

I'm not sure how it is that I've given the impression that I'm opposed to the decorations per se. I don't put up the Christmas decorations in the Church until it's actually time for Christmas; for the same reason that I don't put up the Easter lilies during Lent. Each season has its own propria. But as for the decorations that people put up in their own homes or within the community, so long as they are tasteful (as most of them are), I don't mind that, really; many of those things I actually appreciate and enjoy.

So, I don't think that putting up decorations, in itself, is opposed to Advent. It is the commentary that often accompanies those decorations (quite different from the nice things that Brother Cwirla has written and said about his preparations for Christmas). Every year I read or hear comments that someone is putting up decorations with the intention of resisting or opposing the efforts of pastors (like myself) to observe Advent as a penitential season of watching and waiting. There's always these little digs, here and there, which are hurtful and do make me sad. No doubt I should let those things slide and not worry about what other people think.

Thanks for your thoughtful observations and helful perspective.

WM Cwirla said...

There's always these little digs, here and there, which are hurtful and do make me sad.

My dear brother - I'd normally make this comment in private, but since you published it, perhaps others can benefit as well. Why do you let the comments of others diminish the peculiar joy of the Advent season? The digs may come out of poking good-natured fun at your seriousness or envy at the richness of your devotional life. What does it matter? We lead best by example, as sheep are lead and not driven. Let them say what they will. Show them a better way.

The religious types thought John the Baptizer was demon possessed for his asceticism; and they imagined our Lord, who never seemed to turn down a party, a glutton and a drunkard. "We played the flute and you did not dance; we played a dirge and you did not mourn." Let the contrary have their contrary way. Anyone who defines what he does by doing the opposite of another has no true position of his own. Now that's truly sad!

Happy Advent, Rick!

Amberg said...

The old Missouri hymnal in German put the Advent and Christmas hymns together, but kept the propers pretty well apart. I think there was always meant to be some mingling, although it annoys me to all getup that we're celebrating the annunciation the Sunday before Christmas instead of hearing about John preparing the Messiah's way.

I sent a letter of protest to Target this year because we walked in to a store and saw Christmas tree and lights and hear the music in the first week of November.

Gifford's right. It's green and red season now. After Christmas is over it will just be red season. Then it will be pastel season or green season, depending on when St. Patrick's day comes. Then we won't have a season again for a while. But let's celebrate colors!

Either way, it's depressing. Do you know what I do, Pr. Stuckwisch? I go to my office at a pagan University and I whistle Advent hymns whenever I'm walking through the halls. I'm sure that many hall-loungers are now familiar with "O Lord, How Shall I Meet Thee" and "Savior of the Nations, Come." I gotta be careful though. One time I was whistling "O Come, Emmanuel" in Greek Class in undergrad and my teacher responded, "Stop whistling your religion at me."

Back to the pagans. Aristotle is the bomb-diggity.


Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Thanks for your comments, Mark. You've lifted my spirits already this morning. I'm especially pleased that you started your whistling with Gerhardt's hymn.

A blessed Advent to you and to all.

Rev. Karl F. Fabrizius said...

Rev. Karl F. Fabrizius

For the first time I will actually respond to something on a blog. I seem to be especially conflicted Rick. I love Advent, its themes,hymns, and longing for the Emmanuel; yet, I love to haul out all the decorations at Thanksgiving (otherwise, it would never get done). The decorations come down on January 5th (barring any urgent pastoral business) and have never interrupted my Advent meditations. Oddly, or maybe in Lutheran piety anticipating the coming of our Lord, I have also chosen to bottle my yearly wine batches in the last few days of Advent. The three hundred plus bottles will remind me of the abundant joys of heaven as I will not begin really enjoying them until we reach the twelve days of Christmas.

Rev. Robert Franck said...

There was a "Dear Abby" letter on how long to leave up the Christmas tree that made no mention of the season of Christmas through December 5. For many people the "Twelve Days of Christmas" are the 12 days BEFORE Dec. 25, not AFTER. You are right, Rick, it is amazing how quickly Christmas carols and decorations cease after December 25. For those who celebrate Advent, we're just getting warmed up and then BOOM for most people it's over.

Jesse Krusemark said...

I hear of that Twelve Days of Christmas being prior to Christmas nonsense all the time, too. Perhaps it's sort of the Chanukkization of Christmas.

Jesse Krusemark