Earlier today I posted this on FB:
“The only way to "keep Christ in Christmas" is to admit we've lost the "Christmas" battle to the culture which wipes out Advent and reclaim the Twelve Days of the Christmas Season (beginning Christmas Day running to Epiphany). If you can reclaim Advent in some meaningful way, great. Most of us cannot/will not. If you can't, partake of culture's "Christmas" in so far as you can with some degree of integrity/modesty/moderation intact. Then celebrate the heck out of the Twelve Days.”
A friend asked in response to this how I would like to see Christians celebrate Advent. Very good question! Here is a first pass at a response.
1. Recognize that the persecution of the American church grows most intense this time of the year. I don’t mean, of course, the facile and wrong-headed bleating about “Keeping Christ in Christmas” and all that crap. I mean it in the sense I expounded on here in 7.16.14 “Persecution in America – Really!”
2. Remind ourselves that Advent in lived under the anticipation of the End. That’s the vision we find in Rev.21-22. The first Sunday of Advent always has texts that point in this direction. Themes present there might be good guides to order our Advent by. If you use an Advent Wreath or Calendar this vision of how things will be when everything is as God wants it might be a good way to determine the values and visions we want to communicate to family and the world.
3. Advent is a time of listening for a divine call and casting a vision ignited by that call as horizon under which we are to live the rest of the year.
4. Listen to music and watch movies that express some of the Advent themes you have discovered. I suggest one make it a point to include at least U2’s “Peace on Earth” and Jackson Browne’s “Rebel Jesus” in our playlists. Probably means cutting back on the staple of holiday favorites (“It’s A Wonderful Life,” etc.) for this kind of viewing. And not all of them will be “Holly Jolly” seasonal favorites (textweek.com has a list of films that more or less reflect themes of the seasons of the church year – good place to start).
5. Give a proportionate amount of time and/or money that you spend on presents to serve others. Look for things other than serving at a soup kitchen, preparing holiday meals for the needy, etc. Look for way to personally connect with these folks and in some way get a sense for life as they live it. Each person or family should decide what the proportional percentage should be for them, maybe with a commitment to increase that percentage by a certain amount each year.
6. Try not to allow busyness/business to crowd out relationships. This won’t “just happen.” It will require intention and forethought to maintain or extend relationships during Advent. A full round of Christmas parties doesn’t count. You might cut out some of those to do the relationship building I mention here.
7. I guess the guideline might be “keep looking forward and outward with a relentless focus on those ‘other’ or different than ourselves.”
8. I mean in all seriousness that we are under more intense and serious persecution this time of year. It’s a “iron fist in a velvet glove” kind of persecution to be sure. But as long as we allow cultural “Christmas” habits and traditions to sweep us along in the same ruts every year we have no hope of reclaiming Advent as a resource for faith.