The War on Advent
by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
December 9, 2016
Maybe you’ve heard about “the War on Christmas.” That phrase started appearing on TV news networks and on social media a few years ago — especially on conservative stations and websites. The people who claim that there is a War on Christmas warn us of insidious, secular forces bent on destroying Christianity in America. The evidence of a War of Christmas, they say, is everywhere. Starbucks’ holiday coffee cups don’t explicitly mention the birth of Jesus. Retail workers have started saying, “Happy Holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Today it’s “Happy Holidays.” Tomorrow, who knows?
I don’t think there’s such a thing as a War on Christmas. For one thing, it’s not the responsibility of Starbucks to spread the gospel; that responsibility falls on Christians. Besides, I really don’t think the words “Happy Holidays” are going to make true Christians forget about Jesus being the “reason for the season.”
What I’m far more concerned about is the War on Advent. Now, there’s a season of the Christian calendar that’s really vulnerable!
The season of Advent coincides with the greater part of the Christmas shopping season. We all know the Christmas shopping season’s getting longer: Black Friday took a bite out of Thanksgiving this year, with all the big-box stores that stayed open. How can the four puny candles on the Advent wreath compete with the light show down at the mall — or even the Christmas lights strung across Main Street?
Advent’s meant to be a season of simplicity, of quiet reflection, of anticipation and waiting patiently. These aren’t exactly things that American culture is known for. Advent is the season when we hear the song of Mary, who sang:
“God has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.”
These aren’t exactly the values of a consumer-driven shopping season.
The world out there, with its countdown clock of shopping days before Christmas, is urging us, “Go, and do!” The church of Jesus Christ, during Advent, is saying something radically different. It’s quite countercultural, in its own way. The church is saying, “Go, and be!” Be followers of Christ. Be children of God. Be prepared, for he is coming soon and very soon.
That is what Advent is all about.