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The Holiday of Advent

Consumerism and learning to re-tell time

In school my son has learned to measure time. In being taught this skill he has now been given another way in which to make sense of his reality.

This struck me the last time I went to Chicago for my studies. When I had left, my son asked my wife, “How long will daddy be away?” She replied, “He’s gone for a week.” At which point he went into his room and burst into tears. He understood what a “week” was and for a six-year-old a week can feel like an eternity.

This is juxtaposed to the previous trip where he asked the same question. Upon being given the answer he simply gave me a hug and went off to play. This occurred at a point where he did not have the conceptual tools to understand what a “week” was. It meant nothing to him. I could have said 1000 years and I would’ve received the same reaction.

Time is important, and the ability to tell time provides a lens through which we make sense of our world.

Learning to Re-Tell Time

As Christians I fear that we have lost our ability to tell time. We have come to understand our lives by the world’s clock and the Wal-Mart Calendar: Summer Sale, Back to School Clearance, Halloween Blow out, Black Friday, Christmas Savings and Boxing Day. Our lives are given shape and meaning within this consumerist framework.

It is because of this I have come to value the Liturgical Calendar. This Calendar bears witness to the fact that historically Christians have marked time in a different way. We have marked time by telling and retelling the Story of Jesus throughout the year.

The liturgical calendar demonstrates that the church marks time by re-telling the story of Jesus. Click To Tweet

The reality of this strikes people when I wish them a “Happy New Year” on Advent 1 - in November. For it is on that day we as Christians reset our liturgical clocks and begin to tell the Story anew. In following this Calendar we submit our lives, agendas, and “day-timers” to Christ and allow his life to shape ours.

It is this lack of submission that I am witnessing from the “non-denoms” to the “hipsters” who have engaged the Calendar with a consumerist approach. Wandering the aisles of the Great Tradition filling their utilitarian carts, often with the liturgical staple - Advent.

In this we make Advent a “Holiday” not a “Season.” Holidays are breaks from the regular schedule. They are sometimes spent in different climates or time-zones. They are simply brief retreats from the regular patterns of life. Patterns we return to once the holiday is over.

By treating Advent as a “holiday” on the calendar we are in danger of simply dipping into another liturgical time-zone, only to return to the regular patterns after a four-week getaway.

Inhabit the Advent Season and Let the Advent Season Inhabit You

I write this post as a plea to those traditions that are celebrating the wonderful Season of Advent. Submit to the whole Calendar, truly inhabit the Season and let it lead you into the next one and the next one and the next one. Let it lead you into seasons where another aspect of Christ’s life is revealed to us and challenges us in new ways.

Advent is a time of waiting, expectation and formation. It is a season where we don’t have time, but Christ’s time has us.

Advent is a time of waiting. It is a season where we don’t have time, but Christ’s time has us. Click To Tweet

This said, if you are celebrating Advent because it provides a cool four-week sermon series, send me a postcard from the sandy beaches. If you are celebrating in order to submit to Christ and his patterns,

Happy New Year!

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About the author

Jonathan is a bi-vocational Anglican priest from the Diocese of Huron (Ontario). During the week Jonathan works at United Way Kitchener-Waterloo as a Community Development Officer for Neighbourhoods. He is currently working on the implementation of a strong neighbourhoods strategy. Jonathan is also working on his Doctorate in Missional Leadership. He is married to Erika and together they have two sons, Samuel and Silas.