This Advent I've asked a cross-section of Anchorage pastors representing a variety of faith traditions to submit a brief Advent Reflection under this year's theme: "Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?"
Our next Advent Reflection was submitted by Pastor Peter Perry, Pastor of St. John UMC on O'Malley.
Does Celebrating Advent Really Make a Difference?
One of my favorite irreverent FaceBook sites, Unvirtuous Abbey, recently published an explanation of the word “Advent.” The writer suggests that the word is a compound of Ad (a commercial) and Vent (to complain) resulting in Advent, which is a time when Christians complain about the commercialization of Christmas.
There would seem to be great truth in this definition, as year after year the faithful church folk I know attempt to follow a holy Advent in the face of the onslaught of holiday happenings, seasonal sales, and Merry Xmas excitement. The whininess of the Advent purists does sometimes become tiresome. The season of Advent, a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ, was first observed in the fifth century, and predates such contemporary expressions of the season as Black Friday, Christmas cards, and even Christmas trees… but not Santa Claus whose legendary status grew from stories about Saint Nicholas of Myra, a kindly man with a habit of giving secret gifts, who lived in the FOURTH century. So Santa is even older than Advent, but what’s a hundred years or so between friends?
Nevertheless, it does seem to me that Advent has a much-needed place in our hectic rush to gift-giving indebtedness, our glad embrace of gluttony, and our burn-the-candle-at-both-ends schedules of parties and travel and shopping. Its place is one of mitigation. Advent is like the parachute that slows the otherwise fatal leap of the skydiver from the plane and helps us hit the ground, if not softly, at least safely. Let’s face facts: the culture of Christmas that we know is pervasive and powerful. Almost all of us give in to it to some degree or another. I’m glad that there are four Sundays of Advent that serve as speed bumps on the holiday highway, forcing my spirit to slow down just enough to remember the real reason we celebrate each year with so much joyful abandon. Advent, with its recurring call to prepare one’s heart for the coming of God into our world… Advent, with its four-fold doxology of candles lit for hope, joy, peace, and love… Advent, with its Biblical stories of prophets and peasants and paupers who discover God growing in their bellies, and in their barns, and along their back roads… is an annually recurring divine corrective to the excess of affluence and indifference that so tempt me at this time of year. Yes, Advent makes a difference to me… thanks be to God!