Anticipating Advent: moving from a day to a season

This is the end of my series on surviving the holidays. The fifth handrail that I’m suggesting is moving from focusing on particular dates to thinking about seasons. Advent is a season of anticipating (not dreading) the first coming and second coming of Christ.

We put so much weight on individual events and specific dates.

For some people, Christmas must be celebrated on Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving must be at 1:00pm. The gift exchange has to be at this time on this day with this order.

Across time, I’ve begun to pay attention to seasons more than days.

And I’ve tried to ground my storytelling in a church calendar rather than a shopping calendar or a single emotional day calendar.

In the Jewish calendar laid out in the Law and the Writings, and in the church calendar that formed over the last fifteen hundred years, the holidays and seasons and events were about stories of God.

So, for example, when the Jewish people celebrated Purim, they were, and are, celebrating the wisdom of Mordecai, the courage of Esther, and the protection of God.

When they celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, they were remembering when they were protected during the forty years in the wilderness.

And in those stories was fear and loss and pain and rescue. The stories acknowledge that life isn’t easy, there is reason to not be happy all the time, but there is also reason to know that there can be deliverance.

When we make up holidays, as well meaning as they may be, or when we redefine them, those holidays may misfire.

Thanksgiving is good. It is good to give thanks.

But it can be hard.

Because if we are thankful for good things, if our story is that deliverance is what makes us happy, then what can we do if we aren’t doing well?

The church season of advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is chance to spend time reflecting and remembering and clarifying. For about 1500 years, the idea of thinking about the arrival of Jesus for the first time and the return of Jesus the second time has been part of the lives of many Christians.

By spreading the story-telling out for a month, we take some of the focus off one day, of preparing everything for one gathering.

Last year, I needed help to get ready to think about Christmas, and so I built an advent journal. And it invites us to prepare and remember. To remember the dreams that died. To remember the people we lost. To consider offering hope rather than gifts.

It’s one way to shift into thinking about a season.

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If you’ve ordered a copy of Giving The Year Meaning, but it won’t arrive for awhile, send me an email at jon [at] socialmediachaplain.com and I’ll send you a Word version. This could be helpful if you think with your fingers rather than a pen, too.

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