Monday, November 24, 2008

Advent, Christmas and a Calendar Change.

A few years ago, an LCMS pastor opined that Christians would be better served if some of the things about Advent and Christmas were changed. Changed, in this case, was to be understood as reshaped and rescheduled. The mixture of the secular and sacred aspects of these seasons only serve to dilute both.

The confusion of the secular and sacred is understandable; especially when we are to be living in the world, but not of the world. But to make changes to the ancient cycle of the year is not the problem of the calendar.

Advent is the first season of the Church Year. It is, by definition, a season of preparation. The Feast of the Nativity, however, is not the sole focus of Advent. One of the ancient collects for Advent prays: "Mercifully hear, O Lord, the prayers of Thy faithful people, that as they rejoice in the Advent of Thine only-begotten Son according to the flesh, so when He cometh a second time in His majesty, they may receive the reward of eternal life."

The Nativity of our Lord is the source of our salvation; but Advent is also focused on the final Advent, the return of our Lord in the fulness of His power. The Church Year ends with a focus on the end times, and Advent keeps us pointed in the same direction.

The momentum that this pastor wished to build up as we move toward Christmas is easily diluted by the commercialism of the world we live in. How many times do you see Christmas trees in your neighbor's windows on the day after Thanksgiving, and at the curb on the day after Christmas? So much for the commercialized momentum toward Christmas.

The momentum that truly builds up toward the Feast of the Nativity should be nothing more than the momentum described in the historic Introit for the Sunday after Christmas: "When all was still, and it was midnight, Thy almighty Word, O Lord, descended from the royal throne."

This miraculous, subtle momentum was endured by the Blessed Virgin, witnessed by the barnyard animals, announced to humble shepherds, and saught after by the Magi. Thus was the beginning of our redemption.

Rather than reshape and reschedule the cycle of the Church Year, it is more important that we preserve the historic calendar and be guided by the liturgy that has guided the generations that have preceded us.

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