It’s not surprising that as we enter December, we hear more about “Christmas” than “Advent.” Christmas is the celebration, the feasting, the gratification of desire. Advent involves something with candles that the pastor may mention a few times in December, a vague idea of talking about Christmas before it’s actually here. That’s a shame, because Advent, the build-up to Christmas, is the last bastion of ritual waiting in our culture. Advent (which means “coming” in… Read More →5 Reasons to Celebrate Advent
Christmas holiday songs can be trite and even silly, but one that has stood the test of time is Frank Sinatra’s rendering of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”:
I heard the bells on Christmas day,
their old familiar carols play
and wild and sweet their words repeat,
of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how as the day had come
the belfries of all Christendom
had roll’d along the unbroken song,
of peace on earth, good will to men.
These verses reflect both a tender reminiscence and an awestruck realization that people all around the earth celebrate the birth of Christ. Just beneath these beautiful lyrics, however, lies a story of a very broken man struggling to hold on to his belief in God and humanity.
I’ve noticed something odd about the way most people record or perform the hymn “Joy to the World” today. Four verses were written, but verse three is omitted almost every time. I wonder if verse three is so theologically explosive that people just don’t want to deal with its implications.
Confession: I’ve been learning a lot about ways I get Christmas wrong. Sometimes I get so dizzy finishing school and end-of-year work projects, attending Christmas parties, and traveling that I come up for air, dazed and confused, sometime in mid-January. Sound familiar? But this year, I don’t want to miss the invitation to slow down, wait, expect, pray, hope…and receive.
As we enter December, we tend to hear more about Christmas than Advent. After all, Christmas is celebration and feasting, while Advent focuses on waiting itself – decidedly less exciting. But in skipping over Advent, we’re missing an important opportunity. Here are five reasons to embrace the season of Advent this year.
Worldviews that deny suffering find the fact that sacrifice had brought meaning out of misery incomprehensible. It takes a baby in a manger to make sense of it all, a baby who moved from the chill of a stable to the shadow of the cross to the light of glory. Whether in a remote outpost or a forgotten prisoner of war camp, Christ does not merely stand against culture; he transforms it.
Christianity matters because it is true, and everyone reading this understands that. But some stories illustrate other reasons why Christianity is relevant and matters absolutely. This Christmas season as we remember the birth of our Savior, let us reflect deeply on the difference his coming makes in each of us individually, and in this world in which we live.
One would be hard-pressed to invent a scene more beautiful than that of the Christmas nativity. The newborn child, his young mother and her betrothed, the shepherds, the wise men, the ox and the donkey, all with the Star of Bethlehem beaming gaily — this, no doubt, is the stuff of poetry. But poetry aside, the nativity scene represents a story of hardships and terrible difficulties.
It was Beethoven who said of George Frideric Handel: “Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.” Christians can do no less listening to one of the greatest (if not “the” greatest) musical masterpieces of all time.
Handel’s “Messiah” was first performed in April 1742 at the Music Hall in Dublin. It was originally written for Easter, but quickly became the Christmas Season’s favorite musical production, too.