Nils and I were at the Holidazzle Parade a few weeks ago, braving the chilly Minnesota temperatures to stand outside and watch lighted floats slowly go by. One of the men in front of us at one point heckled, "Where are the menorahs? Where is the Kwanza float? This is the Holidazzle Parade, not the Christmas Parade!"
But it wasn't a Christmas parade. The floats were all from storybooks for the most part: Peter Pan, Hansel and Gretel, The Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio. And of course Santa Claus.
Nothing in the parade was focused at all on the Christ-mass. No shepherds. No angels. No Mary and Joseph. And definitely no baby Jesus. It wasn't truly a Christmas parade.
But it's not even Christmas yet. Soon. But not yet. It's Advent.
I heard a Christian singer being interviewed on the radio the other day. He was saying how he gets legalistic about Christmas. No decorations should be up until after Thanksgiving and then it's all down by New Year's Day. But if he wants to get legalistic, shouldn't he wait until Christmas Day, or at least Christmas Eve, and keep everything up until at least the twelfth day of Christmas?
Over the past few years there has been some outrage over stores telling their employees to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Chirstmas." Recently the GOP had been selling a t-shirt which reads on the front: "Only liberals say 'Happy Holidays;'" and on the back: "Merry Christmas!" As if Christmas were a political platform. (Apparently they removed that shirt from their store this week.)
Should the church be upset with people saying "Merry Christmas" before December 25? Instead we should all be wishing each other a "Peaceful Advent!"
Of course, even in the church, not everyone agrees on Christmas. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6. Some branches of Protestantism don't even celebrate Christmas at all, believing it's not proper to have a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
I don't mean to go all Pope Francis on you, but if we're going to advocate for "putting Christ back in Christmas," shouldn't we also advocate for "putting the mass back in Christmas" as well?
My point? I'm not sure. I guess I just felt like a good rant (just wait until my Santa rant tomorrow). But I think it may be that we all have different approaches to celebrating this season. It's not a battle ground or a political ideology.
I happen to like Advent. We have our Advent candles on our kitchen table along with the devotion we read from. We often don't put up our tree until St. Nicholas or Santa Lucia Day (though we went earlier this year because of my wife's travels). Our magi and camels are no where near the nativity yet. They're traveling until Epiphany on January 6. Baby Jesus won't be in the manger until Christmas morning.
It's important to make this season meaningful for you and your family. And not in a gift-giving or holiday event way. (And I don't mind using the word holiday because I know it's root is "holy day." A day set apart. If anything, let's reclaim the "holy-days." Make them sacred. Make them holy. Remember why we observe them. Whether it's St. Nicholas Day, Christmas, the feast of the Holy Family, or Epiphany.
Until then, have a peaceful Advent.