I’m writing this at 6am, over an hour after Slightly-off-kilter Schräg woke me with this “urgent” query:
We just finished Advent, the four weeks before Christmas when Christians reflect on and nurture hope for radical salvation from oppressors and pain and irrelevance and dysfunction and death. It ends with explosive joy marking Jesus’ exit from Mary’s womb. Along with her placenta. And blood. And her body’s processes of healing and rest kicking in. Finally, an inkling of the relief and happiness that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection would bring.
Here’s what Advent can feel like: anticipation, hope, tippy-toe excitement that engages every aspect of every experience—all the senses, everything about life that is social, emotional, intellectual, material, aesthetic, psychological, interpersonal, imaginal and on and on ….
Now back to Schräg’s longing. Commercial Christmas potently evokes hints of the New Heaven and the New Earth. Indulge my slightly-nerdy analysis of “The Christmas Song” (if you’re in the US and have been awake recently, you’ve heard Nat King Cole’s version a thousand times). Lyrics begin with “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” – rich, pleasant aromas; then brisk, exhilarating sensations; familiar songs and genres; comforting, warmth-retaining clothes; familiar, succulent food and deep colors; yearly predictable ritual; childrens’ innocent wonder pervading every atom; certainty of the arrival of a mysterious, generous Being, with the thrillingly tense uncertainty of when; objects for play, edibles for pleasure; mother/child relationships; almost illicit, surreptitious search for a rare, magical sight; all generations together; inviting people of every age to remember and embrace the simplicity of childhood.
Two words make up the climax, the nub, the core: “Merry Christmas,” a symbolic utterance that evokes all of this, repeated to reinforce its associations, performed to spread and involve and invite many.
This is what Advent can be like—anticipation of the comprehensive nature of Jesus’ salvation. The surprising reality for those who hold a rich, biblical view of Heaven and resurrection: We’re always in Advent.