Friends, we have entered into that wonderful – if extremely busy – time between Thanksgiving and Christmas known as Advent. Advent means coming, and in this season we prepare for the coming of Christ, both as a child in a stable in Bethlehem and in glory at the resurrection. Advent is meant to be a season of contemplation and expectation, but in American culture Advent is rarely celebrated any more. Advent in our culture has been replaced by a new season which I call “Shopmas.”
The season of Shopmas begins with that uniquely American holiday, Black Friday. (Might this soon replace Thanksgiving as Black Thursday?) As opposed to the Good Friday of Holy Week where Christ dies for the ungodly, Black Friday is marked by ordinary Americans pepper-spraying their neighbors for two-dollar waffle irons or trampling them in the rush for high definition televisions. It continues into Cyber Monday and on until Christmas Eve. The Shopmas season is marked by constant cheery music, the hijacking of Santa Claus into the ultimate shopper, and the unrelenting cultural pressure to buy. Advent calls us to slow down and think, but Shopmas cries out to not think but act – now!
In those times of Shopmas down time (and is there ever?) we are reminded that we need more stuff. We need to decorate the house with ever more lights and ever more lawn ornaments. We need a Christmas list to give our friends and family to show them what to buy. We need to throw a Christmas party with more food, more decorations, more everything.
And, in the end, Shopmas season is tiring. By the time we get to December 25 we do not want to worship the birth of the Christ child. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, but to be honest there is not much excitement for going to church on Christmas morning. There is family to prepare for, breakfast to make, dinner to prepare, and presents to open. How will there be time for worship on Christmas day? How can we fit it in? We’re just so busy, and tired. There is too much to do, and so little time to do it.
I invite you, right now, to slow down.
Just take a few minutes, right now, to be still. Give thanks for all God has given you. Remember the child born on that night in the stall, with sheep and cows for a reception committee and hay for a birthday present. Remember he didn’t come to tell us to buy stuff. He didn’t come to cook us dinner. He didn’t come to command us put up lights all around our houses. Remember he came to show us a new way, the way of the Kingdom of God. Remember the gift he gives us every day. The gift of grace. The gift of mercy. The gift of forgiveness. The gift of relationship with God. The gift of salvation. The gift of life.
Join us for worship on Christmas morning. Come and worship not because you have to fit it in on a busy Christmas morning, but because it celebrates the reason we have a Christmas morning at all. We’ll sing together, hear the Christmas story together, and go forth together proclaiming that Jesus Christ is born. Jesus was born for you and me and for the world, to show us that we don’t need more stuff – we need more God, more grace, more mercy, more forgiveness, more relationship, more love, more patience, more joy.
Let’s give the birthday boy his presents before we open ours.
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!