Our Road to Bethlehem or How Not to Grinch Advent

‘And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?” “It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!” “It came without packages, boxes or bags!” And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.” “Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”‘ – Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss’ beloved Christmas classic features the humbug Grinch, whose scheme to end Christmas is focused on the gifts, decorations, and food for the holiday.  He is convinced that he knows what this special day with its attendant joy and “noise, noise, noise” is all about.  But to his surprise, and perhaps that of Seuss’ reader, Christmas “perhaps…means a little bit more.”  For Christians in the time of preparation for Christmas, that is, the season of Advent, how do we avoid becoming a grinch in the lives of our families and friends?

For Christians, Christmas does mean a lot more than these things, and this fact is essential to a proper preparation for that day.  The season of preparation is the season of Advent.  This season of the church is intended to focus our hearts on Jesus’ coming; his first coming in Bethlehem, and his second coming when he shall judge the living and the dead.  It is a time of self-reflection and penitence.  But these themes run counter to the pressures of Christmas as expressed in the cards, decorations, parties, food, and gifts.

How then do we live during this time?  Should we become grinch-like and withdraw or grumble or sabotage?  No.  We are called to engage in the festivities as a way to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  But we do need some practice(s) that will anchor our hearts in the deep realities of Advent so that we can arrive at the celebration of Bethlehem ready, and not exhausted or misdirected.  I will suggest a personal practice below, and in another post Fr. Chris will have some for us as families to take up.

The discipline that I am suggesting for all of us to take up this season of Advent is the daily reading of Scripture according to the Daily Office lectionary of the church.  These readings, like so many of the tools in the Anglican tool box, provide us a structure for growth, like a trestle for a vine.  The lectionary gives us a psalm or two to read, an Old Testament passage, and a New Testament passage each day.  By attending to Scripture each day, we are opening our lives to the voice of God and for that voice to remind us of the deeper reality of His present reign and intention to complete that reign one day through the Second Coming of Christ.  With such a focus, we can both prepare for His coming in a sober way, and engage in the festivities of the season with the depth provided for us in Scripture.

We will have the schedule of readings printed out and on hand throughout Advent.  If you would like a digital copy of the schedule, feel free to reach out to us.