Now, with Thanksgiving having passed, we come to the brink of proper Christmas-time. The Advent season began with this fourth Sunday before the observed day of Christ’s birth.
Already, we have begun to fill the eaves and shutters with sparkling emblems of the season. Crosses, stars, trees, angels and nativity scenes. Though consumer avarice reigns, it cannot entirely quench the traditional symbols of what this season represents.
Our world is one of symbols, strange shapes and patterns imbued with meaning and cultural context.
“No better than you can understand the funny little shapes that constitute our own language,” I said in response.
Of all the symbols found within this time of year is that of “the gift.” That is, something of value is given to another.
Whether it is something of meager value, hastily grabbed from the bargain bins in the last few hours of Dec. 24 or a rare gift of great cost, Christmas is nothing if not about gifts.
Though I might rage and rail at the baser materialistic aspects of this time of year, I am grateful that (if nothing else) we can remember that this time of year maintains some meager remnant of its essence.
“Advent” comes to modern use from our Latin-writing forebears, where it was adventus and referred to an “arrival” of some manner. It also serves as the root for our English word “adventure” the implications of which I hope are not lost on some of you.
Christmas should be both a time of “arrival” as well as “adventure” for us who claim fealty to the One True King.
The birth of Christ, likely occurring nowhere near the calendar date of Dec. 25, was both the fulfillment of long awaited hope and also the dawning of a new age of human history.
Candles are lit in a precise sequence, during proscribed times of worship, rites and ceremonies are observed. Familiar words are spoken, familiar hymns are sung. Loved ones clasp hands and old grudges are forgotten. The colors red and green are prominent in our homes, as purple is in our sanctuaries.
The candles reflects the Light against Whom the darkness cannot prevail; the ceremonies help us remember the deeds of His time on earth. The words and songs assure us of His inevitable return, and the colors lift our hearts with joy and anticipation.
I think local author and teacher Warren Powell captured it so perfectly, in observing this season of the earth and its meaning:
“Leaves are falling all around us. The death and disintegration of each leaf brings life so that other plants may be raised up. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, He became the only way anyone could ever fellowship with God here on earth. When death comes to us, you and I will be raised up to live with Him in Heaven for eternity.”
With each falling leaf, a promise of our own mortality, all that blooms will someday perish. Even so, the promise of a “new birth” in a season of renewal yet to come.
As we term it Christmas Day or Advent Season, the symbols only reflect the greater truth which abides deeper within.
O come, let us adore Him! Christ the Lord.