Seasonal Curmudgeon

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Seasonal Curmudgeon

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Editado: Dez 11, 2006, 1:55am

So, here we are in Advent.

Is there anyone else out there who is maddened by the instant leap from Thanksgiving to Christmas?

Is there anyone else out there who needs to be reminded to "wait" and "anticipate"?

Does anyone else wish they could find a radio station that knows the difference between Advent and Christmas?

I've found great solace recently in Phyllis Tickle's Christmastide book, part of her excellent series. I wish I could find some music to accompany my reading and prayer.

The "It's not Christmas Yet" Curmudgeon

Dez 11, 2006, 9:10am

Being from a country where we have not imported "Thanksgiving" (but "Halloween", just recently, some ten years ago), advent here seems to be celebrated a bit differently, at least by the churches. Mind you, we are less than 3 per cent christians in Sweden...

But anyway - Advent here focuses quite a lot on eschatology and the connection between the historical waiting for a Messiah as Christ was born, and the waiting and longing for His return.

Still, during the last say 40 years, as secularisation has taken a firmer hold, the lines between Advent and Christmas has certainly blurred in the mind of mainstream (ie secular) Swedes.


Dez 11, 2006, 10:27am

To be honest, I guess not. But I think that is likely because I don't even notice it. Sure everything is in a 'holiday' blur, but everything seems like a blur right now.

What really bothers me is the necessity for 'political correctness' all of a sudden it's 'happy holidays'! I was at the Open House at the New York Public Library yesterday, the president shook my hand and said 'happy holidays', to which I said Merry Christmas! I think he nearly had a seizure. In the name of Tolerance, society is actually completely intolerant. In the name of deference to others who have different views, we can not present our own beliefs. We should be a society of diversity, where all views can be held to, discussed, and celebrated. Not one where we keep them in the closet and are fearful of offending. True tolerance is being able to hear and discuss conflicting ideas and being able to tolerate that. Living where you can respectfully agree to disagree.

The "Merry Christmas, not happy holiday's" Curmudgeon,

Editado: Dez 12, 2006, 2:54pm

JDG Responding to your #3 post --

The anti-Christmas phenomenon is something I've not experienced significantly in real life, though I do read a lot about it in the media.

Just to poke back at you a bit, do you think that it is constructive for Christians to sharpen up the blurriness you refer to, witnessing to the fact that waiting and anticipation (advent) are important and different experiences than arrival and fulfillment (Christmas)?

I have had a few worship experiences recently that were very effective in teaching me how to wait and anticipate. I'll claim that this aspect of worship and life is one particular place in which the Church ought to be countercultural...

A hearty recommendation for Gerald May's book, The Awakened Heart, which I have yet to read in depth. The section titled The Secret Hope of Emptiness held a powerful message for me on this topic. (Some of you might be able to find this in Simpler Living, Compassionate Life, available from

Awakened Heart, Gerald May


Dez 12, 2006, 4:17pm

I'm a seasonal curmudgeon not for any specific reason other than I'm never ready to go through it all again when it comes around. I've long ago decided not to worry about the secular and church observances having less and less to do with each other. I just think the web of expectations that comes around annually regarding the secular observance is an unnecessary burden, a waste of time, and has become overly mandatory. One should be able to opt out of it all and just do the religious, liturgical, spiritual, devotional observance--heeding, of course, its import to our lives and relationships. A much deeper celebration, minus all the stupidity.

Seems the only way to do that is to negotiate it with family members who have other expectations.

Dez 12, 2006, 4:31pm


I like the "opting out" approach, but what of the observances that we simply can't do as individuals, or outside of community?

It is a rare worshiping community (church, family, etc...) which can so easily draw a line between the sacred and secular observances...

Also curious about what mandatory secular observances you speak of -- the consumer frenzy, etc... or something from which it is more difficult to opt out.


Editado: Dez 12, 2006, 8:30pm

Mensagem removida.

Dez 12, 2006, 8:56pm


It sounds like saner minds have won the day on this one.

NPR reports the trees are back, the Rabbi wasn't trying to cause a problem and has volunteered to provide a menorah, and a discussion will ensue. Not that I'm particularly invested in the presence or absence of trees or menorahs at SeaTac. ;-)

npr story


Dez 13, 2006, 12:21am

Mensagem removida.

Dez 13, 2006, 9:06am

JA Responding to your #4 Post --

I would say that Advent, especially in the evangelical christian community, could use some serious sharpening!

I guess I am not completely clear as to the nature of the specific focus on waiting and anticipation (would you mind sharing some insight into your experience?). The best understanding that I have is there is a reflection on the reminder of the fallen-ness of our world, the necessity of a messiah, and the amazing price/debt that needs/needed to be paid, the Crying out of the heart for grace in the light of the necessity of judgment/sacrifice. Our Hope is in the Lord, our believed in future.

I think that Liturgy can help to keep us ‘on track’ in maintaining a ‘full-bodied’ experience, as opposed to a topical cursory celebration. In my opinion, as a Christian, the better we personally understand and embrace the full meaning of the gospel message, the more it transforms us. Therefore our focus should be on the coming of the messiah, and not the celebration of ‘holiday season’. It should be a daily celebration. I know it has become the ultimate cliché, “he is the reason for the season”, but the modern ‘holiday cheer’ is a sense of fulfillment in selfless giving, which obviously steams out of the ultimate sacrificial gift, initiated in the birth of the messiah. IN the absence of this true hope, this season is a pagan love fest. But as believers, as the ‘holy catholic church’ shouldn’t we embrace the sentiment of the season, from the perspective of the gospel truth, and celebrate?! Maybe we should be carrying a mentality of ‘opt-in’ to a celebration of the Truth.

If you don’t mind me being a slight revisionist: There is the fall, which leads to the need for a salvation and therefore waiting and anticipation (advent) that leads to the arrival and fulfillment (Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter).


Dez 13, 2006, 10:04am

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Dez 14, 2006, 8:41pm

Re: a few of the questions in your first post:

Advent music on the radio: see if you can tune in to this program where you are:

It is from St. Olaf College (ELCA), and its weekly programs are tied to the liturgical year. All Advent right now.

Our church (ELCA Lutheran) is very careful to celebrate Advent during Advent. No Christmas music till the 24th! We light the Advent wreath every Sunday, and read prophecy... Many of our church families do the same at home, using blue candles to signify hope. I can definitely feel the waiting, to the point where it is very difficult for me to get any Christmas shopping done, because it just doesn't feel like Christmas yet to me!

Dez 14, 2006, 9:09pm


Welcome to the conversation. I was able to get a stream of Sing for Joy... I'll report in later.

Good to hear about St. Olaf -- my good Norwegian great-aunt was a proud graduate of St. Olaf, and I understand their music program is nothing to sniff at.


Dez 15, 2006, 5:00pm


The "mandatory secular observances" I spoke of are the family Christmas traditions, which I respect but wish we could individually opt out of once in a while, perhaps just saying ahead of time that we'll visit in the spring but won't traverse the frozen tundra to do all the Christmas stuff this year.

A personal problem, I know. Takes some negotiation. I guess I see some in my extended family overdoing it every year. What particularly galls me is someone pontificating about how all the materialism is so excessive and then plunging right into the materialism with great relish. How about stopping it instead?

And I'll admit some of this annual angst has to do with my personal social anxieties that I probably can't blame on family or Christmas.

Dez 15, 2006, 5:30pm


a caveat re: Sing For Joy: don't expect all St. Olaf student voices. The program uses commercial recordings (although some are from Lutheran colleges, true).

Scottknitter: I'll never forget the Christmas years ago when my (nonbeliever) mother gifted me with magic rose quartz stones, meant for rubbing for good luck and to dispel worry... sigh.

Of course, being righteous I told her I didn't need them, I had the Lord... and we had a lovely fight, on Christmas Day.

What can one do. She should have respected my belief; I should have risen above her action and instead seen her underlying love and desire to help me. Family gatherings are minefields fraught with danger, and it doesn't get easier over time. Plus, everyone has their own ideas what "celebrating Christmas" means. All we can really do is pray for tolerance and understanding, I'm convinced. God must be rolling his eyes, though, dontcha think!!

Dez 15, 2006, 5:36pm


God's eyeballs may indeed be rolling, but I like to think there's a smile there, too. Rueful, perhaps, but a smile nevertheless.


Editado: Dez 15, 2006, 10:44pm

I recently received the latest newsletter from St Augustine's House, a Lutheran monastery (!) in Michigan, and the prior wrote this, which has helped me deeply:

Christmas can never be a gift we give ourselves. No celebration we can contrive will bring us the lasting hope and peace for which we long. The essence of Christmas is a love that comes from outside the world, a gift from above. John described his expectation in these words: "...he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." We also must expect that the Gospel of Christmas--the very Gospel about to be proclaimed *this* Christmas--will be "mightier than I," mightier than anything we can do for ourselves. We often rate our Christmases as happy or unhappy according to our material means or psychological state. But no Christmas in which we have received One "who is mightier than I" could be unhappy, could be lacking in the power to give the light of hope in the midst of human darkness.
--Fr. Richard G. Herbel

See the Web site for the full newsletter with this article.

Dez 16, 2006, 4:54pm

Last night I was at my 'home fellowship group' aka bible study. and we had a time of directed prayer.

First we read, meditated on, and then prayed:
Isaiah 7:13-15, 9:1-7
The theme of the prayer was the incarnation of Christ, Adoration.

Second we read, meditated on, and then prayed:
Luke 2:8-21
The theme of the prayer was for suffering, and of confession.

Third we read, meditated on, and then prayed:
John 17:6-26
The theme of the prayer was for the City (NYC), Suplication.

We seperated into groups of 4-5 and just prayed the scripture with the purpose in mind and kept things short and let the spirit move.

It was a powerful time to say the least.

Just thought I would share my 'advent liturgy' of last night... oh yeah and afterwards the food we ate in K-town was incredible.

Jan 4, 2007, 9:03pm

In my post about "opting out," I was thinking of any traditions outside the liturgy (in my case). Of course one would join with others at Mass and the Office if possible, but I'd love to forgo the family get-togethers and gift exchanges and substitute a get-together in the summer, for instance. More and more I find I'm not into the traditional parties nor the usual music, decorations, and so on, and certainly not for three months of every year. Like to do it differently and quietly.

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