Apocalypse and Advent
I am waiting for Advent.
In other words, I am doubling down on Advent, since Advent is a time of waiting.
Perhaps you remember, as I do, a time when Advent heightened our expectation of Christmas by depriving us of its presence. Even further, we deprived ourselves of pleasures—candy most noticeably when we were children—in order to prepare ourselves for that glorious event.
Today we count down the shopping days, we gather for dozens of holiday parties, we watch an endless parade of TV specials; and then, as an afterthought it seems, we go to church on Christmas day—and wonder what the fuss was all about!
So, I am still waiting for Advent. But I know neither the day not the hour when it will come.
In the meantime, I am suffering through a minor variation of the Grand Funk. It comes and goes with differing intensity from year to year. Some years back I composed these two letters—one to the Christian churches, and one to the retail trade. I see them now as signs pointing to the end time then, and quite likely even more so now.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CHURCHES
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Once again the Christmas season is upon those of us who call ourselves Christians. Yet more and more each year our Christmas symbols and songs serve commercial ends to a greater degree than spiritual ends. The season begins earlier and earlier each year, and becomes more and more frantic in its playing out.
Let us resist!
Christmas is a special day for Christians. There is nothing added to it when we give ourselves, our songs and symbols over to a commercial enterprise that serves only the god of mammon. Were the serpent among us today, I am sure he would be saying, “No, giving gifts to your loved ones is the real meaning of Christmas; for, as the Good Book says, ‘It is better to give than to receive.’”
As believers in Christmas let us not be deceived. The real meaning of Christmas lies in a stunning reversal of that old saying; for in this case it is better to receive than to give. We need only open our hearts to the ever-new presence of divine life, as it is born again in our midst.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE MERCHANTS
Once again the Christmas season is upon those of us who call ourselves Christian. Yet more and more each year the symbols and the songs of Christmas find themselves featured in your aisles and played on your muzak.
Christmas is a special day for Christians. You have no right to take our symbols and our songs and use them in your pursuit of money and profit. Were Jesus alive today, I would not be surprised to see him drive the images of Christmas from your temples of commerce, saying, “You have tried to turn your den of thieves into a house of prayer.”
Believers in Christmas see right through your shameless use of what is sacred to us, in order to extract more money for your coffers.
Again, please desist! Have the courage to create and promote your very own holiday for your very own reasons. If you worship money, then admit it—and make the dollar your sacred image. If you want to make people feel guilty for not spending themselves into debt, then hire consultants to create an appropriate advertising campaign. But don’t expect us to give you cover, and do your work for you. We’re going to take Jesus to church this year.