Our culture approaches the month of December with several competing narratives. Among others:
There’s the “Christmas Cheer” narrative, where December is a month to be happy, joyful, celebratory, going from party to party and giving and receiving gifts amidst calls of “Merry Christmas”.
There’s the “At My Wits End” stress narrative, where the month is one unbroken string of adding social engagements, harried shopping, hosting extended family, and house decorating on top of schedule that was already crammed full in November without all the extra responsibilities.
There’s the “It’s All Fake” narrative, where the merry making just papers over the depression and dysfunction and pain that’s right under the surface. I think of any number of Christmas movies depicting the family dysfunction at the heart of some Christmas “celebrations” or It’s a Wonderful Life’s George Bailey before Clarence the angel intervenes.
And, of course, there’s the “Reason for the Season” narrative, where Advent is a time to push all distractions aside to bask in the reality of Immanuel, God with us. Peace on earth and all the holy accompaniments.
While there are certainly those who love everything about the run-up to Christmas, who connect deeply with the first or last of the above narratives, many of us find Advent more complicated, disorienting, stressful, even sad than we feel like it “should be”. We ought to be joyful; we ought to push away distractions; we ought to focus on Jesus, and love, and peace, and all that holy stuff, right?
But then real life returns, and we think of the obligations we have to fulfill, the person who isn’t going to be sitting around the Christmas tree this year, the to-do list that doesn’t go away, the pain that keeps nipping at our stockings. What are we to do with Advent? Which narrative is true?
What if the answer was all of the above? What if the distractions and holiness and pain and joy and stress and peace were all supposed to be wrapped up into one narrative, instead of us having to choose? What if God intended Advent to be a part of our real, complicated lives each year, instead of a fake imitation? What if the rough edges of our Decembers weren’t things to be sanded away?
We hope you’ll join us this Advent on December 4th and 11th as we explore how we can celebrate Advent authentically and deeply while still in the midst of the real world. After all, Christmas is the story of the joyful birth of our Savior…in the midst of donkey and sheep manure.