Advent, which means “coming,” is the season leading up to Christmas, when the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated.
Historically, the first Sunday after Thanksgiving marks the start of Advent, but judging by the dates when Christmas-related goods go on sale in the stores, it evidently now begins somewhere around Labor Day. As a result, what little connection exists between the birth of Christ and this consumerist thing we call “Christmas” continues to erode.
Perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe we should all just ’fess up and admit that there’s no real relationship anymore between the two, and let it go. Perhaps the old Seinfeld show depicting the creation of an alternative holiday got it right: “A Festivus for the rest of us!”
The semi-pagan origins of the mid-winter celebration that evolved into Christmas are well-documented. By letting the pagans have it back, Christians could rededicate themselves, at some other time of the year, to considering what Advent is all about.
The truth is, what gets lost in the Black Friday (or is it now Black Thursday?) shuffle is the fact that we are not only remembering the birth of a savior, but the reason he had to come in the first place.
As Matthew tells us, the angel instructed Joseph: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Jesus – Yeshua, in the Hebrew – means “the Lord saves,” and the dark family secret that lies hidden in all the trappings and tinsel of Christmas is that every last one of us is a sinner in need of salvation.
It’s only when this reality finally sinks in that the Advent of Jesus Christ truly becomes the “reason for the season” – whatever the time of year.