Thanksgiving is over, the leftovers have either been consumed, frozen for later, or transformed into some other edible form. Most of the company has gone home, and if anyone’s lucky, there is still at least one piece of pie left in the refrigerator for whoever snags it first. For one day, we seem to thrive on gluttony, with big meals, and lots of friends and family around to trade traditional stories and laugh together, even if some of the laughs are just a bit frayed on the edges. Still, we’ve given thanks for families, friends, those who’ve we’ve lost, those who are new to us, for help or for strength to go through tough times, and just about every reason we can think of to be grateful. Now the march is on to Christmas.
But hold it. Wait just a moment, please. Tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday, a day that celebrates Jesus in his role as ruler and King of the Universe. It was first marked by Pope Pius XII in 1925 and is mostly celebrated in Roman churches, although Anglicans may observe it as well. It puts a period on time we call the Pentecost season, and the Romans call Ordinary Time. We aren’t ready for Christmas just yet; we still have another season to go.
I have to admit I love Christmas. I bought a new tree this year, and I have just put it up and turned the lights on so that I can see where lights need to be replaced or a branch shifted to cover up a bald spot before I even start decorating. But then I stop and think okay, just because my family tradition is to put the Christmas trees up on Thanksgiving weekend, it doesn’t mean I need to jump ahead straight to Christmas. I’ll have a week to work my way into Advent, four weeks of reflection, contemplation, and meditation on what this whole Christianity thing is about. Yes, it celebrates the time between the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary about the forthcoming child and runs up through the eve of that child’s birth. There’s a lot that goes on in the meantime, but there isn’t much in Scripture that describes that, so we left to think about things in detail, like why was Mary chosen? What characteristics made her the one God shows to be the mother of Jesus? What happened after Mary went to her cousin Elizabeth’s, and what happened after she left Elizabeth’s to return home? There’s so much to think about that I’m glad I have a week to prepare for it.
I know it’s early to be talking about Advent, but we’ve been seeing Christmas trees and decorations in some of the stores since Labor Day. This week they’ve added the songs like Jingle Bells and Deck the Halls that are not really Christmas carols but seasonal songs that we’re accustomed to hearing this time of year. Starting about December 1, the local classical station will begin playing more Christmas music every few days. It will start with one every three or four hours, then work its way to Christmas Eve day, so that it is all Christmas music for 48 hours. Come the Feast of St. Stephen (or Boxing Day), you never hear another thing about Christmas. It’s cut off for those of us in churches that observe the whole season of Christmas, and it’s a bit of a bummer. We don’t sing Christmas carols during Advent; we wait until Christmas to start celebrating, and we do so until Epiphany on January 6. So by the time we’re ready to celebrate, others have already gone past that and are into Valentine’s Day. We rush things, and we don’t take time to anticipate the reality.
I remember as a child, the church I went to didn’t celebrate Advent. I never heard about it until my first year or so in the Episcopal Church. I learned that it did balance to the year in a way, like Lent, only a little less penitential. Advent is a season of looking ahead but not so far that my feet aren’t grounded in today.
I think I will enjoy this Advent season, just as I have almost every year since I first came across Advent. I don’t have an Advent wreath, mainly because the cats would either try to eat it, singe their fur on the candles or try to knock it off the table. But there’s an Advent calendar inside me with a proper number of candles lit for each week and my reading will help me keep on that path to not rush into what is coming.
I’ll still enjoy my Christmas tree, and as I sit in my rocking chair and watch the fake flames in my little fireplace, I feel contentment. I can put away the anxieties. I can practice being contemplative and calm, practice patience and enjoy what I have. I’m thankful for Thanksgiving, which reminds me to be grateful for so many things. I’m grateful to celebrate Christ the King Sunday, but I’m also thankful to have the season of Advent to look forward to. I hope you do too.
Image: Advent Wreath at St Peter’s Catholic Church, found at Wikimedia Commons
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also owned by three cats.