Thursday, November 19, 2009


"Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope." - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Does it seem to you that there has been an uptick in recent years of Evangelicals observing Advent? I'm not sure if I'm just more aware now, or if everyone is a bit more aware. This time last year I saw this video put out by Advent Conspiracy, which as far as I can tell is a fairly loose organization that encourages people to give relationally, as Jesus did, and give financially toward real needs rather than needless stuff. I like the idea of what they're promoting. At its core, I think the point is not to spend less money on presents, but to spend Christmas celebrating again that Jesus' arrival was hope for the world, and to discern how we can convey that hope in our relationships and around the world. It's to worship with our whole lives, in our hearts, in our homes, with our money. It's not a new point, I know. This has been the point all along. But the reminder is good.

In the Advent Conspiracy 2009 video they suggest that spending less time combing the malls, sitting in traffic, worrying about money, attending parties, buying sweaters, running hither and yon gives more time to worship fully "the newborn king who came to earth and changed everything: history, power, humanity, intimacy, hope--everything."

I find that a stirring collection of words, because I spend my work days thinking about history that is often ugly (sometimes beautiful, too), power relationships that are fraught with injustice, humanity that is hurting and has been for centuries, intimacy that has been compromised, commodified, appropriated; and in all that, sometimes not a lot of hope. And yet I think Jesus did change those things and does bring hope. So, during the Advent weeks, as part of my own observation of advent, I want to think about how Christmas relates to each of those.

I'm curious what y'all think about Advent, and who observes it, who thinks it's an un-evangelical sort of holiday to recognize, who doesn't think about it, etc.

I've also decided that the occasional visit to the coffee shop is a good Advent activity. Today as I slurped a toffee nut latte and worked on a schedule, I was aware that the soundtrack was all about God with us, God who forgives our sins, and washes clean the hearts of men. It was a good cup of coffee.

1 comment:

  1. I love Advent; I've loved the whole Church Year thing since I was introduced to it about 17 years ago. It's a hard season to observe outside of church, though -- at least in the U.S. I'm going to cheat and copy my thoughts from my own post on the Advent Conspiracy instead of writing it all out again.

    Advent, celebrated during the four weeks before Christmas, is a season of the liturgical church year, a time of repentance and reflection in preparation for the coming of Christ, both as God who became man in a particular time and place (Christmas), and as God who will return to judge the world at its ending (the Second Coming).

    That's the theory anyway. In practice, it's a hard season to observe in a culture where Christmas events start before Hallowe'en and the celebrations—instead of extending from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6th—end abruptly about noon on December 25th. Between Hallowe'en hype and Christmas hype, Advent—like Thanksgiving—gets lost.