Advent MMXI – Or How I Learned To Stop Thinking of Christmas as a Super Bowl

I am a little bit reluctant to say this out loud, but, I kind of like Christmas these days.  Our tree is up, I played my three “A Very Special Christmas” CDs the other day while the family was around, and I even put white lights on the outside of the house this year signifying we are indeed Christmas people.

It was not always so.  Before I got my first gig as a Youthworker, I worked in Retail Sales for about a decade.  I really did not like Christmas.  Mainly I didn’t like the people, the repetitive music in the background, the lack of days off between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and working nonstop after Christmas with returns and then inventory in January.

I did like the midnight Christmas Eve candlelight service at FUMC because it brought me some sense of peace, even if was to only last through the early morning hours of December 26.

I honestly did not “expect” much from Christmas.  Of course there was always the nice sweater and new socks and good food.  But there was also a family argument or two and some yelling at the TV set.  So, it just wasn’t much fun overall.

Is anybody else out there a Christmas hater?  Or is it just I?

After about 3 decades of Church work, there may be hope for even me.  All of those Advent Bible studies are sinking in.  You see, I don’t think I ever really got it.

It is kind of like what has happened to the big championship game to decide which NFL team is #1.  Does anybody actually watch the Super Bowl to see some great football anymore?  It seems most attention is on expensive commercials, half-time wardrobe malfunctions, and some weird part at the end where everybody seems to spray gallons of champagne on each other while thanking Jesus for their touchdowns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent years focused on the shopping crowds, bad attitudes (including my own), credit cards, etc.  That was Christmas to me.  Does anybody actually watch Christmas to see some great things God is doing anymore?

Oh sure, it is sweet baby Jesus’ birthday (well not the actual day, but I’ll save that for another time) and it was fun way back when I was a kid (I think).  But I always seemed to focus on silly things: is Santa just an anagram for Satan?  Did I spend enough money on presents for people to love me?  Should I give everybody at work a gift certificate so we can get along better?

What if Christmas was really about……Advent (the liturgical season of the Christian Year)?  What if the thing that is being born year after year into my world and yours is actually the chance to “get it” that Christmas is For Others and not for me, or even for you?

Maybe the point is this: God Comes.  God comes into this desperate world where families are torn by pain and loss, where relationships are in need of reconciliation, where even the whole of Creation groans for God to make things right.  Maybe God is at work in the world and all these distracting things our culture has turned Christmas into keep me from trying to see God.

So, as my family has helped me to focus more and more on looking for God at work in the world, the other things don’t seem to matter as much.  Last year for Christmas we went to Juarez, Mexico and built a house with some great friends and true believers.  Folks that believe God is at work in new ways.  I feel sad this year that we can’t go again because of the extreme violence.  But I am not discouraged because I’ve seen God at work there restoring families and communities and I trust that God is at work even when I am not.

And if God is to be seen at work there, maybe God can be seen at work here!

As a Youthworker I think I am called to help Young People see God at work in the world.  I help them to have a language to understand what they see.  The language of Advent is one of Hope and Joy and Love and Peace.  And thanks to Advent, I am really looking forward to Christmas!  How about you?

Peace and Grace,

Charles W. Harrison
charles@mcyouth.org


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