There are two ways to celebrate Christmas.
One is the world’s way. This involves lights. Lots of lights. And music. And decorations, usually red and green. Many stores have had their Christmas decorations up for a while now. Lenox Square, a mall located right in the heart of the Buckhead shopping district in Atlanta, GA, has had its Christmas decorations up ever since the first week of November. Some stores are beginning to decorate for Christmas 2012.
Gifts are an essential part of the world’s celebration of Christmas. You have to go out and buy lots of them. Buy them for anyone and everyone who is of any acquaintance or relation to you whatsoever. Why? Because it’s what the stores want you to do. It’s what keeps our economy afloat.
And don’t forget about parties. The next few weeks are all going to be a blur of Christmas parties. Friends, work, church, family, all having must-attend parties. You will eat, drink, and be merry. Your waistline will grow into something approximating the width of a large mountain.
With all the hustle and bustle and commotion of the season, you will work yourself up into a frenzy of anticipation. And when Christmas finally does arrive, you will be all Christmas-ed out. You will be left with nothing but a whopping pile of credit card debt from all the gifts you got, a whopping mound of weight to burn off in the new year from all the food you ate at all those Christmas parties, and a boatload of regret. What is it that Christmas is supposed to be all about anyway? Because whatever it is, you sure missed it. Yet another Christmas has passed, and all you have to show for it is this boatload of gifts and decorations and credit card bills.
You can celebrate Christmas the way the Church has historically celebrated it for the last several centuries.
For starters, they don’t even call it Christmas. The Christmas season doesn’t even start until December 25. It continues from there all the way through Epiphany, which falls on January 6.
The time prior to Christmas is called Advent. This is a season of waiting. We remember Israel as they waited for two-thousand-plus years for the coming of their Messiah, as we wait (for real) for Him to come again at the end of the age.
Advent puts us in a mood of anticipation. We don’t celebrate Christmas prematurely like all the rest of the world. We still go to all the parties and eat all the food and have all the fun. We still do all the Christmas shopping and enjoy all the lights and decorations and other sights and sounds of the season. But while we are doing all this, we give ourselves space to step back and quiet our souls. To contemplate the darkness of our world, the darkness of a creation that awaits the coming of its Savior and Redeemer. To anticipate the coming of our long-promised Savior, which we will celebrate in just a few weeks’ time. And when Christmas does come, we are ready to start celebrating it, not all Christmas-ed out and wondering what the hell happened like the rest of the world.
Which way will you celebrate Christmas this year?