Today is black Friday and millions of people are out at the mall doing their "holiday" shopping. Some are picking out their "holiday" trees (if they aren't up already). Some real early birds had their outside decorations up weeks ago. (I've seen them!)
So my question today is "Will you keep advent?"
The word advent comes from the Latin "adventus" meaning "coming."
Christmas is the destination but there is meaning in the coming to it. If you were starting on a cross-country car trip from northern Virginia with a destination in California would you ignore everything on the way? Of course not. You would pick out the northern or southern route and mark all the interim destinations on the way. Perhaps you'd plan to go through Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. Maybe you'd want to stop at the Alamo or the badlands. How many would drive straight through without a single exciting stop along the way?
And that's how it should be with our journey from the first Sunday of Advent to Christmas Day. It's a time to pause at some of the important events that led up to that first Christmas in the stable at Bethlehem. Thinking about the important ancestors on Jesus' family tree, like Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, Ruth, Joseph, and Mary, reminds us how God prepared his people from the day Adam and Eve rebelled until the day the angels announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds.
If you leap to Christmas without experiencing the wonders of Advent you'll miss the growing brightness in the east from the rising Son. You will be celebrating the season like the secular world does as one more excuse for Hallmark cards, parties, and turkey dinner. But the richness of Advent's liturgical meaning makes Christmas much more than a secular holiday. It's a day of wonder, the birthday of the king, "with royal beauty bright."
So keep Advent well. Follow the star with the three kings for a truly brilliant Christmas Day!
Experience with your family some of the wonderful Advent traditions to make Christmas more than a day of food and gifts.