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Advent Meditations

Readers, this season is a time of struggle for me. As I shared in my post a few days ago, the Advent season is upon us, according to the Church calendar. But according to the world around me, it is Christmastime.

Anyone else out there having a hard time leaving Christmastime behind and clinging to Advent right now?

I firmly believe that culture is the hinge to unlock the door of the heart (see my very first post here from March 2011). And so I have been ruminating on the idea of the day-after-Thanksgiving-to-December-25th Christmas cultural phenomenon. For the most part, it revolves around Santa and presents and putting up decorations and ‘Advent’ calendars with chocolate each day, etc. For many years I’ve tried the Christian bandaid–making the season from the day-after-Thanksgiving-to-December-25th really about Jesus and not about the secular hoopla. I feel like that’s sort of what the local Christian radio station is doing: repackaging the day-after-Thanksgiving-to-December-25th so that it fits into a Christian worldview.

For those who love this Christmas season or who think I lean toward radicalism (read “my sister” here), please believe me that I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. (Or should I say, the Baby out with the tinsel?) I value American culture even though a lot of it seems past redemption. I have warm fuzzies when I think of movies like Home Alone (specifically the first one) and turning on traditional Christmas carols as my family and I decorate the Christmas tree (on the 4th Friday of November, usually). And there are songs with great Gospel messages about hope and peace to the world that I like, even if not explicitly ‘Christian.’ So I have been riding the fence about listening to Christmas music and getting into the ‘Christmas spirit’ a little bit–not all the way, mind you. I’m trying to be a good Anglican.

This morning as I was listening to a secular radio station with Christmas music, I was thinking about this, my struggle, to embrace both the day-after-Thanksgiving-to-December-25 Christmas culture and the historically Christian season of Advent (see my previous post here). And I felt God speak gently to my heart that most often the way of Life in Him is counter-cultural. Leave it to God to speak things to me that I already know…but somehow it made a little more sense that it ever has before. (Thank you, Lord.)

And so today I have been challenged to truly make this Advent season devoted to preparing my heart for His second coming as we will celebrate His first coming in the Feast of the Incarnation (aka Nativity). I convinced my husband (pretty easily) to invest his Christmas music money into an Advent music playlist. Since we’re both music people, this is one of the main ways we will be focusing our hearts on preparing for Jesus’ second return. That means that from now until Christmas Eve, I will not be listening to traditional Christmas carols (without being a jerk about it, hopefully). And when I miss Bing’s White Christmas and my Ella Wishes You a Swingin’ Christmas album, I will be turning my attention to Jesus and our world’s (and my own) desperate need for Him to come into our hearts in a fuller way and for Him to come back.

Pray for me.

Oh, and here’s our Advent Playlist in an Excel document, if anyone is interested in making one of their own. By Advent songs, I mean songs that anticipate or express the longing of the human heart for salvation, and the hope we have the Christ will return.

Advent Playlist


4 Comments

  1. zgbeck says:

    After reading your post last night, I was thinking about how Advent helps us change the expectations we have for the (mainstream) Christmas season and for what God is doing in our lives and what He will do in the world. A lot of people (Christians included) get psyched up about Christmas, remembering all the fun traditions, but then there’s a sort of malaise or disillusion starting on December 25 and following. The tendency to look backward typical in the love of Christmas can result in disappointment because the holiday is never like we remember it. Advent teaches us to look forward, to expect something different from before, but as with Lent, we learn to expect in absence. With Christmas, the tendency is usually toward stimulus overload–smells, songs, food, gifts, friends, all of which are great, but it is easy to mistake these material blessings for the end. We may see the Christ-child in the same way: we invest so much in the blessing and hope that Jesus’ birth brought to the world, and we stop there.We celebrate the great potentiality, the portentousness of Jesus’ birth, as if it were arrested in time, as if that potentiality was not fulfilled in His life and ministry and continues to be fulfilled to this day. Jesus’ birth is sensuous–it is the ineffable God coming into the tangible form of a baby. We long so much for the tangible, it gives us so much comfort. Advent, however, does not give us this comfort. Like Mary awaiting Jesus’ birth, we must wait expectantly on the Lord, not knowing how He will grow and stretch us. Perhaps we are afraid to hope for something new, to walk out in the promise that what the Lord has for us is good–we are afraid of being disappointed or of disappointing God because we can’t live up to what he’s promising. Maybe a different function of Christmas, then, is to encourage us in what we learn during the waiting of Advent. The Prince of Peace did come into the same flesh we have; He knows us, our weaknesses, and limitations…and still He promises us comfort and joy! Christmas is not the end of Advent; we’re not supposed to get off the train and sit on a bench for a while. Nor are we supposed to keep looking backward. We must, instead, look forward: Advent teaches us to do so, and Christmas encourages us in the process, to fix our eyes on the One with healing in His wings, Who will lead us to greater things than we can remember or could imagine.

  2. Kara says:

    Hey, hard act to follow guys…I just thought I’d mention one of my fave Advent songs. It’s not a normal one, so I get it not fitting the playlist ;) but if you’re interested – White As Snow by U2

  3. Kara says:

    I forgot to mention – you can hear the melody of O Come, O Come Emmanuel in it, which is why I always listen to it this time of year.

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