While Advent is not “in the Bible” (Christians didn’t start observing it formally for several centuries after Christ), it is solidly biblical. The idea of taking time to prepare for a holiday (or a holy day) is found in how Israel would often prepare for its feast days (like Passover). Even the weekly Sabbath was not to be rushed into, but entered into thoughtfully and prayerfully.
If you find yourself tired of Christmas already, maybe it’s because you’re going about it the way culture does, and not the early church. The following is an excerpt from an article by Stanley Grenz which helps explain this weariness many feel.
The ancient world devised a rhythmic cycle for the celebration of Christ’s incarnation. At the center was Advent, the 20-plus days beginning on the 4th Sunday before Christmas Day. By fasting and abstaining from public festivities, Christians were to prepare for the holy day by being drawn into the sense of longing for the Messiah’s coming felt by generations of God’s faithful people.
This heightened sense of anticipation would, in turn, give way to overwhelming joy and festive celebration when Christmas Day finally came.
As members of the fast-food generation, we have become so eager to get to Christmas that we bypass Advent. Whereas our forebears enjoined fasting and reflection, we try to enjoy days filled with more Christmas festivities than we can endure. Rather than entering into the sense of expectation lying at the foundation of the narrative of Christ’s entrance into the human plotline, we read only the story’s glorious climax. Rather than savoring the plaintive mood of “O Come, O Come Immanuel” we immediately want to hear a robust version of “Joy To The World”. In short, we have our Christmas early and create a drive-through Christmas.
How do we break out of this Christmas rut?
1. Extra time with God. Make use of the Advent devotionals we have provided. Try a day of fasting. Read a spiritual classic like “Pilgrim’s Progress”. Miss this, you’ll miss it all.
2. Extra time with yourself. Our instinct at Christmas should be to put others first, but the ancient Christians understood that self-examination had to come before self-denial. Unless we understand what makes us tick, what sins lurk inside of us, what selfishness clouds our heart – we’ll be of little use to others.
3. Extra time with others. “Let him who has two coats give to him who has none.” Jesus doesn’t want both your coats (although both belong to him). He doesn’t want you miserable so that others can be happy. But he doesn’t want you to hog your happiness. Sorrows shared are halved – joys shared are doubled. Live to give.
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.