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The “Scandal” of Christmas, in Advent

November 29th, 2008
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I was reading around the blogosphere and stumbled across a person's blog who was proudly telling about how his little daughter today opened her window and yelled at the top of her lungs at the next door neighbors, "You should not be decorating, it is Advent!" Cute story, huh? Or is it? I'm not so sure. Let's see, the child yells at the neighbors, strike one. The child condemns Christmas decorations, strike two. And then the proud dad, yes, a Lutheran pastor, brags about it all, strike three.   

This time of year we have our share of wringing hands over the "secularization" of Christmas, railing against the "commercialization of Christmas," and weeping and gnashing of teeth at the Christmas music piped over the speaker systems at the secular temples of our society: the shopping malls. Oh, the horror of it all! And then to add to it, we have ponderous lectures about how Christmas should not be allowed to intrude upon Advent, in any way!

To all such persons, dear friends all, I say, "Bah, humbug!"

I say, instead: "Bring Christmas on! Lets spend our time working to make sure the light of Christ shines in the darkness, for as often and as long as we possibly can shine it." Let's not react to the spirit of the age by presenting ourselves, and our faith, as a bunch of old church ladies, wagging our fingers and scolding people, doing all we can to confirm the stereotype that Christianity is all about making sure somebody, somewhere, is not having fun.

I'm quite sure we can observe Advent well and properly while also using this time to witness boldly and joyfully of the reason why we observe Advent.

To coin a phrase, let's light a candle, rather than curse the darkness. Our family sings in Advent, "Light one candle for hope…" and so forth. Let's use this season to present the good news. Here is how one of those naughty Advent Christmas decorators lights up their house for the neighborhood. No Santas, or Frosty the Snowmen here. No, just the bright white light of Christ, the babe of Bethlehem. This scene will be presented, every night, from now through the twelve days of Christmas, until January 6.

And a merry, happy Advent and Christmas to all!

Christmas Lights 2008-2
 Christmas Lights 2008 McCain

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  1. wcwirla
    November 29th, 2008 at 21:34 | #1

    Great post, Paul! Your post suggests a two-fold approach to December I hadn’t thought of before – in the world, let the light of Christmas shine, in the Church a bit of restraint to enjoy the fulness of Advent. Both/and. I like it.

  2. George A. Marquart
    November 30th, 2008 at 08:52 | #2

    Now, now. You keep that up and people will think it’s alright to sing Hallelujah during Lent. Then where will we be?

  3. Paul Beisel
    December 1st, 2008 at 08:58 | #3

    Rev. McCain, that’s fine if you want to put up your Christmas decorations early. There is no sin in doing so. You are free to do as you like. But why rip on a “proud” father who delights in seeing his instruction reflected in the words of his children? That’s just a low blow in my opinion.
    {{McCain: Should a father be proud when his daughter yells at the neighbors? And frankly fusses at them about decorating for Christmas? I don’t think so.}}

  4. Pr. H. R. Curtis
    December 1st, 2008 at 09:51 | #4

    Chiding children and their fathers over such matters on a blog appears petty. The same points could have easily been made and perhaps more persuasively if there had not been reference to the incident that began the post.
    {{McCain: Pr. Curtis apparently assumes that readers of this post know which child and which father I was referring to. But since I neither named, nor identified them, their identity is unknown to the readers of the post. Their identity is irrelevant for the point I was making, but I appreciate Pr. Curtis’ concern. Perhaps he is right.}}

  5. wcwirla
    December 1st, 2008 at 10:19 | #5

    I don’t see any “ripping” of the aforementioned Dad or his liturgically precocious daughter. I do see a three year-old’s perspective on liturgical/seasonal rubrics and hope that as she comes to full maturity in Christ, she will grow into a greater sense of joy and liberty. (Romans 14:5ff)

  6. December 3rd, 2008 at 08:56 | #6

    We have that very same white Nativity set. It shines in the darkness like none other.
    The seminary is lit up beautifully this year, shining the Light that can be seen all over the surrounding area. I love it. There’s a lot of joy in these lights.

  7. Rev. Robert O. Riebau
    December 4th, 2008 at 03:07 | #7

    We have that same set! It has a sort of beautiful simplicity–doesn’t it? We’ll be putting ours up soon.

  8. Randy Keyes
    December 4th, 2008 at 11:22 | #8

    Coming from a non-Lutheran background, I loved your comments! Why? Because there is fine line between carrying the truth to another or beating them with it. In every Christian tradition there is this dillema—even in the LCMS.
    I find it sad that this Lutheran pastor who I would bet prides himself on his understanding of “Law and Gospel” would encourage his daughter to beat others with a legalistic liturgical law rather than taking your “light the candle” approach.
    Besides, do we follow Cannon Law on what we can and cannot sing or do during the church year? If so, why not go all the way and step back to Rome or Byzantium? Order is good, so long as order does not move into legalism.
    Light the candle! Explain the JOY of Advent rather than looking down your nose at those who have never heard. And share with them: “You have heard it said, but let me add this…”

  9. Paul Beisel
    December 4th, 2008 at 12:42 | #9

    I’m beginning to have some difficulty distinguishing between the church-growthers of our Synod and some of the writers on this blog. I detect no sense of joy over maintaining the ceremonies/traditions of the Church, but more of a sense of “pride” over ditching them. Not sure what to think.

  10. wmcwirla
    December 4th, 2008 at 14:22 | #10

    I don’t see any material connection between “church growth” and the various ways in which Advent is celebrated or not in the culture. As I understand the original post, this has to do with how Christmas is handled in the surrounding culture not in the Church. As far as I know, this blog has but one writer, Paul McCain, who keeps the season of Advent with great joy. If anything, his message seems to be “lighten up,” lest in our liturgical rigor we lose the joy of Advent (remember the “rose” candle?) and come off as judgmental prigs. I hear no calls to chuck the “ceremonies/traditions of the Church,” whatever those might be.
    As I’ve said elsewhere, I view this whole business according to the three ordos of the Table of Responsibilities: In my home, Advent is a season in which Christmas breaks in slowly. This year the tree will come in a bit earlier because I like it, it costs a lot of money, and I want to get maximum enjoyment from it. Besides, how do you prepare for Christmas without bringing in any Christmas? In church, we keep our symbols distinct and clear – Advent wreaths in Advent, Christmas trees in Christmas. Oh, we might have a preschool Christmas pageant or so, but that’s about it. In society, I’ll hum along with a Christmas carol whenever I hear one, laughing at the ACLU the whole while, and I’ll enjoy the neighbor’s electric light show – snowmen, Santa Claus, Snoopy, and all – thankful I don’t pay his electric bill.

  11. wcwirla
    December 5th, 2008 at 11:51 | #11

    I detect no sense of joy over maintaining the ceremonies/traditions of the Church, but more of a sense of “pride” over ditching them.
    I think that’s reading into the original post and subsequent comments much more than is there and also something sinister (no slight to left-handed people intended). The twin ditches of legalism and license are easily avoided by the way of true Christian liberty. One can have the fullest of ceremonial, making High Mass at Notre Dame look like a Baptist tent revival, and yet hold these things with the loose, dead hand of non-necessity, recognizing that these are man-made traditions not Divine Tradition. This “both/and” way is a very Luther-an way. What the original post and subsequent comments seem to be guarding against is the dour liturgical pietism that judges others while applying rubrics and ceremonials in the way of a three year-old.

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