A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, December 08, 2011

An Advent and Christmas Mixer

What do you think? Should Protestants be more Advent intentional in their worship?

Whenever I attend Catholic mass during Advent, as I did last weekend, I’m always struck by how it is simply assumed—how it’s a liturgical . . . no, an ontological given—that Christmas is nowhere yet in sight.

I realize that many Protestants are thought to envy Catholic liturgy and the facility with which it is "performed" by both priest and people (and I’ll admit to a little of this), but I happened to attend St. Brendan on the Second Sunday of Awkward (as the good-humored Father reminded the faithful): they were still struggling through the newly-mandated changes in the mass.

But they got, always get, Advent right — the scriptures and prayers, of course; the music, especially; and, just as important, the mood.
Why is it so hard for most non-Catholics to really embrace this season fully? We give it a wink and a nod, observing a kind of pseudo-Advent, even as our Christmas celebrations — ecclesial, civic, and familial, are in full-swing. I have complained about this so many times for so many years that I’m sick of myself on this one. I mean it. I gotta get over it. Mainline Methodists observing Advent for real, for keeps, for the duration? Never gonna happen.

It can seem like so much liturgical snobbery to beat this dead horse year after year.

"You're a purist," clergy friends tell me, "and congregational life is messy."

"If I don't let the choir sing the Christmas Cantata on the second or third Sunday of Advent there'll be hell to pay. I could lose my job."

"Celebrate the youth Christmas party on December 27th? You're joking, right?"

I know these concerns. I do. Full disclosure: my spouse is a UMC pastor who does his best to lead his congregation into the riches of Advent but who, like most clergy, has inherited deeply cherished, fiercely preserved "traditions" that make it impossible to really succeed.

But here's what else I know. Most people in the pews are up for the challenge — the mystery, the drama, the strange satisfactions — of Advent. Not all of them. Some of them will refuse, resist, raise a fuss. But they're the ones who complain about anything seemingly new or different! Am I right? (And why do we assume that what we do in worship gets put to a vote? Even the subtle, passive-aggressive "voting" by withholding money or snubbing the pastor or whatever – acts usually tolerated with a kind of silent, ulcer-inducing fury. Pastors make themselves sick worrying if worship is "liked." Liturgy by popular opinion, majority rule. So Protestant. But I digress).
You can read the entire post, "The Advent we hope for," here.

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