BRADY COLUMN: Advent-Christmas Practical Implications

Published 10:30 am Friday, December 2, 2022

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As I was putting up a few Christmas decorations the other afternoon, my mind recalled the practical implications of the Advent-Christmas season.  Of course, Advent means “coming” and refers to the four weeks of preparation leading up to the coming of Christ on Christmas Day.  For some, the Advent-Christmas season will be part sad.  To be sure, the season’s memories include times of pain and this pain usually comes with additional strength during the holidays.  It may be the loss of a loved one, a divorce, being unemployed, the lack of clothing, food or shelter, an unfortunate childhood memory, being hurried or harried, a sense of the happiness of others while we feel lonely and unhappy.  These kinds of pain usually become bearable at some point during the year, but the pain reasserts itself during the holiday season.

Not long ago, I was looking through various church bulletins. One announcement in one of those bulletins caught my eye. The announcement said, “Longest Night Service.” And then I read the description. “This service is to focus on hope for those whom the holidays may be stressful or painful.” I was reminded again that a very real part of Christmas is sadness and unhappiness.

For others, Advent-Christmas is part glad! Of course, another part of Christmas is laughter and happiness and fun.

A man said to a friend, “Have you tried to buy a Christmas tree yet?  The Price!  I paid $40 for one and I brought it home in the car. Not the trunk-the glove compartment.” A dad said, “My kids just love to get me useful, practical, down-to-earth-type gifts. Last year they gave me a battery-operated toothpick.” Someone said this Christmas, why not give your minister the very best?  Stained-glass contact lenses! 

Christmas is the little boy waving to his parents during the Christmas presentation, the donkey acting up in the Christmas scene, Christmas parties, putting toys together, cooking a favorite dish, getting up in the wee hours of the morning. Christmas is all this and so much more. For sure, it is part gladness. But most important of all, Advent-Christmas is a time of Hope! Whether our personal Christmas is more sad or glad or both, it most definitely includes hope. That is precisely at the heart of the meaning of the Advent-Christmas season.

The church exposes us to Advent-Christmas in order to remind us of God’s promises and that God keeps God’s promises. God keeps God’s promises in Christ.  The apostle Paul writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

The late Brennan Manning said that there are three ways of committing suicide: Taking my own life, Letting myself die, And letting myself live without hope.”

So Advent-Christmas may be part sad or glad but it is always full of hope.  And being mindful of those varying emotions will assist others and strengthen our own joyful hope.