And I realized tonight that it's probably not a good thing.
Let me explain several things. We'll try to make this coherent.
Knowing that sloppy language makes sloppy thought possible, I seriously want two different words to distinguish between Christmas in a Biblical sense, and the materialistic sentimental consumerism that is so very rampant in our culture. As fun as it is to make up new words entirely, I'm going to go with "Advent" referring to the Biblical sense of Christmas and "Christmas" to refer to the commercial greatness. Hate me if you will, but at least we know what we're talking about now.
I ran sound for the elementary Christmas/Advent programs at school tonight. Starting rehearsals at 12, with a two hour break, I was thinking about Christmas to some degree for six hours. (Probably most of those thoughts were related to Christmas by way of adjusting the gain on the microphone to make the kids singing the Christmas carols sound better, but I did actually have some time to contemplate the lyrics and the program itself.) Both the younger kids' program and the older elementary programs were quite gospel centered, which was great. But as I blogged here last year, I still have problems with sugar-coating Advent within the church.
While it may be a great starting place for really little kids to understand Advent, I think it seems pretty trite to look at Advent as just "Jesus' birthday." It is of course (though not literally a date in December), but it is so much more than that. And it seems we lessen the glory of the Incarnation and the perfect plan of redemption and His kenosis (see Philippians 2) if all we do is talk about a birthday party in which we're the ones really receiving the presents.
Driving home tonight I was still thinking about this, and while it may be trite or devaluing to just see Advent as a birthday party, it's no different than my normal behavior. Like it or not, purposefully or not, far too often I live as a practical atheist. God is often an afterthought, rather than my raison d'etre.
My heart needs to practice the season of Advent every day. I need to constantly be reminding myself of the Truth of the Incarnation, of Immanuel, of God-With-Us, and that knowledge needs to radically transform the way I live, day in and day out. As Eric says, I have to constantly preach the Gospel to myself.
Two weeks ago, I wrote this:
I can get so distracted by what Christmas is not, or what it shouldn't be, that I forget what it is. This is why I desperately need something like the season of Advent, a time to actively remember and prepare my heart for Immanuel, God-with-us, taking the form of His creation upon Himself that He might redeem us.
I'm wrote this two weeks ago, but I've been pretty terrible about purposefully observing Advent personally. Fully realizing that Advent has been going on for three Sundays now, I'm immersing myself in it now. Better late than never, right?
Anyways, I'm not a huge music person, but I think my favorite thing about Christmas/Advent is that everybody is playing and singing hymns, which is rare the rest of the year. I'm going to blog every day, now until Christmas, looking at some of my favorite Advent hymns and a few brief thoughts.
It's an exercise in preaching the Gospel to myself, which my hard heart desperately needs.