Editorial: Advent points to hope beyond the secular season

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So, now we walk through the season of Christian unity. We lift our voices as one to lament the secularization of Christmas. Fa-la-la-la-la; la-la-la-splat.

Friends, it’s past time to take your mama’s standard advice: “Get. Over. It.”

Christmas has been and will continue to be co-opted by secular society. And with good reason, if you think about it.

knox newEditor Marv KnoxFirst, Christmas delivers all the feel-good emotions people crave. Even stripped from its faith-full story of the Savior’s birth, Christmas is all about songs and celebration, altruism and good cheer, bustling crowds and serious shopping, festivities and family.

The other day, I heard an atheist talking about how he enjoys “celebrating” Christmas. And even though we don’t agree on the core meaning of the day, I couldn’t refute why he loves it, too.

Second, Christmas gives us a break. This far into the year, we’ve had our fill of bad news and calamity, and we’re dog-tired of work and responsibility. So, Christmas provides an excuse for news clips and TV shows with sappy endings. It offers a cultural break from the daily grind. And most folks even get a little time off the job or out of school.

Third—and this may be the most enduring cultural reason the season has “legs”—Christmas is vital to the economy. If Christmas could cease to exist, the government and business community, Republicans and Democrats, Texans and the rest of Americans would unite—a miracle in itself—to create some kind of out-sized, outrageous holiday to generate not goodwill or joy, but tons and tons of shopping.

Don’t fret yourself

So, go on. Get over it. Don’t fret yourself about how others miss the point of Christmas. They do what they do, and you can’t change them.

Instead, as followers of the Babe of Bethlehem, let’s do what we can do. We can prepare for a deeply spiritual and meaningful Christmas by practicing the ancient discipline of celebrating Advent. Depending on when you read this, we’re just on either side of two weeks in already.

For years, many Baptists resisted Advent because they felt it was “too Catholic.” However, it’s the perfect antidote to the secularization of the Christmas season. Advent helps us turn our hearts and minds toward the true meaning of Christmas and enables us to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It gives us peace to share the truth of Christmas with folks who might otherwise miss it.

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Christians who celebrate Advent join with millions of sisters and brothers around the world as they anticipate the coming of Jesus. They mark the Sundays leading up to Christmas by lighting candles representing the themes of Advent—hope, love, joy and peace—reflected in daily devotionals. They sing songs of anticipation. They look past the trivial distractions and look ahead to Jesus.

For all ages

Advent blesses Christians of all ages. But it’s a special gift to families whose children live at home. When they gather around an advent wreath  night by night, reading devotionals of anticipation, singing songs of hope and praying prayers of gratitude, they create memories that last a lifetime. And they instill Christmas in young hearts.

In sacred moments of Advent, Christians rise above shallow secularism. We cast our hope on God, express our love for Jesus and others, secure our joy in eternity and experience peace on earth.

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