The Advent wars have begun. Every year, the worship chair wants to start Christmas on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. She wants to sing Christmas carols. We have the same discussion year after year. Since I choose the texts, hymns and sermons, I win. But, of course, it is a hollow victory.
So, I am beginning to think about Advent. What are we waiting for? When I was thinking in terms of the incarnation, it was easy. Advent is a time for us to prepare for the incarnation. We need to think about what difference the incarnation means. Which has always meant that we need to realize that we are sinners and need Jesus for salvation. (Advent=penitence).
I believe the church should be counter cultural when the culture is against Christianity. I believe cultural Christmas is not Christian. I believe it is a symptom and sign of the culture's idolatry of materialism and greed. So that makes me an even stronger opponent of starting Christmas at Thanksgiving (gee, can we start after Halloween, that's when the stores put out their Christmas displays).
Now, though, I am beginning to wonder. What was the meaning of Jesus death? I don't buy substitutionary atonement for lots of reasons. I don't believe God sent Jesus to earth so that he could die on a cross. I think death happened (the same way it did for Dr. King and Msgr. Romero). I think the church tried to understand Jesus' death and its meaning. So, if the early church understood the meaning of the resurrection as Paradise being here and now (or the realm of God being here and now), then what of Advent?
"Our understandings are always provisional." An OT prof would say.
At least I have a few weeks to begin to parse this out. (I have a feeling it is the work of a life time.)