Christmas is a funny season. For some folks — especially retailers — Christmas skips right over Thanksgiving and lands squarely in our laps the day after Halloween. For others, including the more hidebound and traditional among us, Christmas begins at sundown on Dec. 24 and continues until Jan. 6, the literal Twelve Days of Christmas.
In the Episcopal Church, and other churches in the Western Christian tradition, the four weeks preceding Christmas make up the season of Advent, a period of preparation in anticipation of Christ’s incarnation in the Nativity, and for his Second Coming. Each of the four weeks has a theme — in the modern form of the tradition these are peace, love, joy, and hope — which helps us focus spiritually in preparation for Christmas itself. But to be honest, it can be really difficult, especially in our ever more secular society, to approach Christmas from a place of peace, love, or joy. As Australian Bishop Lindsay Urwin, OGS, writes:
Sadly, for many, the rush to the deadline 25th December will be full of distractions, irritations, present buying, efforts to be nice, and over indulgence, to the extent that many will heave a sigh of relief when it’s all over. For others it will be a reminder of loneliness or alienation, and perhaps a reminder that they do not have the financial wherewithal to celebrate a ‘proper’ Christmas. It’s a tragic irony indeed that to celebrate Christmas in ‘western’ fashion you have to spend money to prove it matters …
In short, for all the hoopla of the season, Christmas and our preparations for it can be freighted with all kinds of cares, worries, and baggage alongside the joys we hope to feel. So let’s talk about it in our conversation this evening.
How does Christmas start for you, and when? What are the traditions you observe or the things that you do that make the season come to life? How has that changed for you as you’ve gotten older? While I suspect we all try to prepare for the “worldly” side of the holiday with its parties and presents, how well do we prepare ourselves spiritually? Or are so caught up in the secular side of Christmas that we lose sight of the spiritual? If “Jesus is the reason for the season,” how do we show that, besides in the creches or nativity scenes we set up in our living rooms or in front of our businesses?
We’ll talk about all this, and more, in our discussion this evening. Join us for the conversation beginning at 7pm at Homegrown Brewing Company in downtown Oxford.