While the put-Christ-back-in-Christmas crowd is gearing up for another friendly holiday rhetorical crusade, my attention is going to be focused on restoring a tradition that is largely alien, even to the most ardent of conservative evangelical culture warriors: Advent.
Advent, which begins today, is a season that is focused on anticipating and preparing for the coming of Jesus at Christmastime. In fact, notwithstanding the party line of the aforementioned culture warriors, it is my understanding that the liturgical season of “Christmastime” does not begin UNTIL December 25. It then extends until about January 6, which, according to tradition, represents the full length of the journey of the Wise Men.
I love what the Imagio Dei community, in Portland, Oregon, is doing with this season. According to their web site, they will be focusing on the contrast between Herod’s Kingdom – which was founded on wealth, military force, and greed, and the Kingdom of Jesus – which would be founded on weakness, dependency and sacrifice. Out of this contrast, they will emphasize four things:
1. God became poor so we could be rich. Thus, we should not waste what we have, but give to those who are in need around us.
2. God gave himself relationally. We should also give of ourselves to others, rather than giving lots of junk that people don’t need anyway.
3. The purpose of Advent is worship, not gift exchange.
4. When we receive, we receive Jesus, not stuff.