Shame-filled Advent?

J. Mary Luti, retired seminary professor and United Church of Christ pastor writing at her blog, Sicut Loutus Est on the current trend of religious leaders shaming people for their excitement about Christmas during Advent:

Advent is here. And I’m not sure I can make it through the season. That’s because I am growing impatient with a certain Advent sin often committed in the name of God in our churches. I have repented of this sin, but the fact I badly needed to repent of it tells me I will probably have to repent of it again, and so I am not exempting myself from my own warning about it. Just so that you know…

I would call it a pet peeve, but it’s more than an irritation arising from a personal preference or conviction. It’s more like a theological disquiet, even a bewilderment, an uneasy sense that we forget ourselves and the gospel when we routinely rant about the consumerist society in which we live, and by implication, deride and condemn everyone who participates in pre-Christmas ceremonies of buying and selling. I’m simply getting tired of listening to sermons in Advent that draw a sharp line between the bad world of getting and spending which barely acknowledges or even notices the reason for the season, and another good world in which none of that goes on and into which Jesus can be born properly, cleanly, to the sound of angels singing, not cash registers ringing.

Too often I’m left feeling shamed and abandoned by the church in this season, because I’m a human being like the ones I hear derided from the pulpit. ....
.... say it is un-Christian to live like this is simply wrong. To say we have fallen into the hands of some consumerist Satan and are screwing everything up is wrong; even more, it is to miss the deeper drama. The drama God sees, the drama in which the Incarnation is the daring protagonist, the drama in which God and humans and all creatures are unaccountably finding each other, groping weirdly in the human dark by the light of desires great and small, guided and misguided, but desire for each other all the same.
And why, at precisely the season when people are paying attention to the Story of a savior, of God’s love, of peace and justice and love—when secular people are paying attention, in their own Muzak, Hallmark, Santa Claus kind of way; not the way we might want them to, not necessarily in a churchy sort of way; but paying attention to the Story nonetheless, and with hearts softened towards it too—are we deriding them just for being people with great (if misdirected) desires, and driving them away with our anti-world rants? Isn’t it ironic that in the season of Incarnation we tell people from our pulpits that it is not okay to be fleshy?
It’s one thing to take seriously the preacher’s duty to prick the conscience and provoke a change of heart; it’s quite another to take a world full of human desire, a church full of longing hearts—frenzied and misguided to be sure, but good, very good—and tell it to go to hell.

Advent is here. Please don’t tell me not to be human. And don’t tell God that some great cosmic mistake was made when God chose flesh, this world, and us, and pitch a tent among us.

Read it all here.

Comments (4)


It drove me crazy to see my Facebook feed decry Black Friday and extol Small Business Saturday. Are we really upset about consumerism, or are we just taking cheap shots because we don't actually like to go shopping among crowds?

Laura Toepfer

I have not heard a similar rant from my pulpit, and fortunately, I don't hear many rants in general, so I don't know exactly what is being preached. However, I disagree with the author who seems to equate "fleshy" with our American addiction to "consumerism." Additionally, I would contend that the main point of the seasons of Advent and Christmas is to accept the reality of the greatest gift ever-- God incarnate. I find this very hard to do when we spend most of our "free time" in stores or on-line. Personally, I am challenged to fully appreciate and give thanks to God; I avoid unnecessary distractions. Our stores are open 365 days a year.

I fear I am confusing the post with the first comment. First let me start by saying that the rant against Black Friday creep seemed to me to focus more on the destruction of the sanctity of Thanksgiving than on consumerism vs Christmas. I found the sanctimonious tone ironic. Suddenly folks were upset that retail employers were having to work...on Thanksgiving. Yet many non-essential jobs have required folks to work on this day...think football stadiums, restaurants, airlines, etc.

Secondly, I have never found the church reminder to keep Advent separate from Christmas to be overbearing. We are a grossly consumer driven culture...our American spending habits are hardly "human" behaviors...I highly doubt that the retail push with Christmas beginning in Oct is due to a passion about the incarnation...

I'm sorry, by rant I mean the general rant on Facebook that the first comment mentions.

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