Opinion Column

CEB: Advent = Wait, wait, wait, wait for Christmas

Patricia Anne Elford

The scent of baking orange-date muffins lures us to the kitchen. Soon, soon, they'll be lifted out, warm and sweet, slightly crunchy on the top, but first, we must wait. The right time is coming.

The baby kicks and rolls within Sandra. Her husband laughs as a bump appears and disappears at her projecting midriff. She longs to hold baby's sweet softness in her arms, but first, she must wait. The right time, baby's time, is coming.

Drying on the table, his newly completed watercolour taunts him. He wants to lift it up, to mat and frame it, to display and enjoy it. First, he must wait for it to dry and be carefully released from its masking tape. The right time is coming.

First goldfinch sighting this year ... five of them land on our windowsill for seeds. I grab my camera. They startle and fly away. I didn't wait long enough for them to become used to my presence. I didn't wait for the right time. "For everything there is a season."

Adventus is Latin for the act of coming, not the final arrival. Some on-line definitions, incorrectly, equate advent with Jesus' birth, but, in churches, Christmas Eve and Day are to be the time for celebrating the actual birth of Jesus. This year's Revised Common Lectionary's Christmas season is from December 24th to January 3, 2016. In many stores, even before Hallowe'en, the Christmas planograms are taped to empty shelves. In others, we turn the corner of an aisle: "Christmas" items are begging to be bought. Get your Holiday Barbie (with Oxfam arms), now! Buy yet another toy weapon! ('Tis the season to zap something?)

In the Christian church calendar, the season of Advent during the four weeks before Christmas, represents the much longer time that the Jews waited and waited and waited for their Messiah to arrive. "Prepare the way of the Lord." We now await his return.

In the secular world, we're assaulted by hymns, carols and novelty Christmas music until stomachs churn. Facebook or television--we can't escape! It's in parking lots, restaurants, stores, elevators, even in some public bathrooms. (Urinate to Silent Night/Joy to the World! Say what?).

Pity the clerks who slave during increasingly long workdays until Christmas Eve ends, hearing the same "Christmas" music over and over and over. Earworms share their nighttime pillows.

One relative tells of taking "anything-but-Christmas" CDs in his car to avoid the pre-Christmas radio onslaught when driving to and from work.

Unfortunately, Advent and Christmas, which are, after all, traditional Christian Church times, are damaged by the exterior world's approach. The mumbling begins. Rather than its being a time of eager waiting--as intended, rather than our singing Advent music, rather than our sharing a time of preparing body and soul for one of the holiest celebrations in the church year, the churches themselves are slithered into by the snake of secularity.

Some congregational members, hearing Christmas music "out there", are moved more by sentimentality than by Christian faith. Not understanding, (perhaps not wanting to?) they start grumbling because they think the church is behind.

"The music is out there. Why not sing it in here?"

"The stores have decorations up. Why don't we have more than an Advent wreath in here?"

If the tree is already up, "Why isn't it lit?"

Answer: Because in this part of the Church year, it isn't Christmas yet. During Advent, we look forward to Christmas. There are fine Advent songs to hear and sing while we wait. (See links after the Advent journey.)

We celebrate Christmas when it first arrives and during the two weeks which follow.

It is a Christian Church festival, but rather than the Church's leading the way and teaching, it's the secular world, (particularly businesses) which becomes the tail that wags the dog.

Many people seem to have lost the ability to "wait upon the Lord". So, the muffins come out half-baked. The baby is not sufficiently developed to face the world. The watercolour runs and smears. The goldfinches disappear.

The weeks intended for anticipation are not spent in self-and-soul preparation for God's presence. Far too many people come to Christmas services unprepared, weary of Christmas music, fatigued by Christmas commercials and shopping. "Oh Holy Night" is no longer so holy ("set apart"). Many just want to get it over with, go home and clean the cat-barfed tinsel off the rug before Aunt Susan arrives.

We can't "take Christ out of Christmas", not even by calling it Xmas. X is the Greek symbol for Christ. The word doesn't exist without Jesus' birth. We can cheat ourselves of the richness of Christmas by ignoring Advent. The Jews waited and prepared themselves for years and years. Surely we can wait for a few measly weeks as we prepare ourselves?

Don't know any of Advent music, but want to try to spend at least some of Advent season as intended?

Some sources:

http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/10-advent-songs.html Matt Fradd posted 10 suggestions

All the earth is waiting, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baAS2Tfad2s, (Not easy to hear but tune is not challenging and text shown)

Come, thou font of every blessing, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax_NMWLEb6U

Come, thou long-expected Jesus, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xWwnqfl8J4

Comfort ye my people, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pabx6towKE#t=12 choir

Creator of the stars of Night, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hONtxzbUMhA&feature=youtu.be

Every valley shall be exalted, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOXOE2caXpo

Hark the glad sound, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ-twN2aDxE#t=54 (From Handel's Messiah) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8ea8Mh8iZE (Lutheran & Presbyterian tune used)

Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZnabxcayqc#t=82 (looking towards Christ's return)

Long ago, prophets knew, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlBFG0mvaaQ

Oh Come Divine Messiah, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfhgjssvXBE#t=44 *

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel, http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/10-advent-songs.html

In Latin: Veni, Veni Emmanuel (The Nativity Story movie) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDsYNw6DM0Q

On Jordan's bank https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2_30G2fJmU

People in darkness #124 The Book of Praise, The Presbyterian Church in Canada, 1977. Not on You Tube yet.

Prepare the way of the Lord (Taizé) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g42GT9cMSWo

Prepare the way, O Zion 129 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSMeODM46to (some static but music good) ***

There's a voice in the wilderness crying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-zA43JZxN8 (Different sources; some different words.)

Tomorrow Christ is coming, as yesterday he came, Midi: http://www.pateys.nf.ca/cgi-bin/getnametune.pl?hymnnumbers=131 Words: http://www.pateys.nf.ca/cgi-bin/lyrics.pl?hymnnumber=131