Newsline

National Security , Newsline , Society

Defeat the Christmas Blues: Celebrate Advent

Posted on Sunday, December 3, 2023
|
by AMAC Newsline
|
18 Comments

AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel

Christmas wreath advent wreath on wooden background with copy space

The first of the countless articles on how difficult Christmas is has already appeared: “Christmas Blues: The Impact of Finances, Loneliness, and Stress During the Holiday Season” tells us what we’ll be reading about in the title. There’s much truth in such articles. But what they often leave out is that there is a good way to alleviate all that schedule and finance strain, as well as the loneliness. It’s by refusing the siren song (or is it Mariah Carey?) of modern Christmas celebration that tells us we must be partying the entire month. Instead, we should celebrate Advent. There’s no better time to start that practice than today—the first official day of Advent on western Christian calendars.

Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas. It starts with the fourth Sunday before Christmas. And it is often ignored, even among Christians who have it on their calendars. Christmas sales and retail Christmas displays have been up since before Halloween. Pop radio stations have started their Christmas play list, the HOAs and even many Americans have already put up their trees and decorations. And Christmas parties and even Christmas concerts often happen even before that first day of the preparatory season.

It was not always so. In many Christian cultures, the putting up of decorations and the singing of Christmas Carols proper was reserved for, well, Christmas—a season that lasts from December 25 until, depending on how you consider it, Epiphany twelve days later or even Candlemas on February 2. In our house, influenced by German Catholic traditions on my wife’s side, we bring in the tree and decorate it on Christmas Eve or, if we’re getting wild and crazy, Christmas Adam—a joking way to describe December 23, which precedes Christmas Eve. And though there might have been parties to celebrate St. Nicholas (the real Santa Claus) on December 6 or other saints, Christmas celebration itself was postponed.

There were plenty of great Advent songs to sing: “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”; “People Look East”; “Hark the Glad Sound!”; “On Jordan’s Banks the Baptist Cries”; “Joy to the World”; and everyone’s favorite, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” And there were plenty of great traditions: the lighting of Advent candles on an evergreen wreath; the Jesse Tree (a tradition going back to the twelfth century in some forms); Advent calendars, many of which include both a small treat and a Bible verse; and many others besides. It was a season of joy but also of waiting for the big party time.

If some of the more fun practices have made a comeback, the waiting aspect, especially the ascetical part of it, is a tough sell. Yet that has been a big part from the beginning. Historians tell us that the origins of Advent followed close upon the fourth-century practice of celebrating Christmas itself—the Mass of Christ’s Nativity, or birth. By at least the 380s, if not earlier, Christians in Spain began to practice a time of heightened communal prayer and asceticism starting on December 17 and lasting until Epiphany. By the 480s in Gaul there was a movement among monks to fast in December. Eighty years later, a local council there commanded clerics (and perhaps lay people) to fast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after the feast of St. Martin on November 11 until Christmas. This made a six-week preparation time, forty days to match the forty days of Lent’s preparation for Easter. In Rome, however, the practice was a four-week preparation, the practice that came to dominate western Christianity.

Today, though eastern Christians still follow that older custom of a “Nativity Fast,” which starts on November 15 and is sometimes called the “Lesser Lent,” almost no western Christians have a fast attached to the practice of Advent. In fact, some even question whether one should have an ascetical or penitential element at all. Why ought anybody to be penitential in this season? It’s not Lent, after all.  Isn’t the birth of Jesus a joyful thing?

It is indeed, but Christian joy at Christ’s coming is always going to be a reverent and even penitential joy. Advent comes from the Latin Adventus, meaning coming or appearance. Christians don’t merely celebrate the coming of a baby. They celebrate the coming of a Savior whose life was from beginning to end an offering to God his Father. A Savior who died, rose again, and will come to judge the living and the dead. That preparation for the celebration of Christ’s coming into the world as a small child is at the same time a preparation for his second coming as both Savior and Judge. Christians who practice disciplines such as fasting, giving to the poor, and more prayer are reminding themselves that Christ’s grace is free but it is also designed to free us from attachments to the things of this world and for greater service to him. Like the child Jesus, our full glorification only comes after death to self and life for God. 

Celebrating Advent is the perfect way to ward off the Christmas blues for several reasons. It’s certainly a natural truth that we value something that we prepare for. Refraining from indulging ourselves (and overindulging) throughout December means the celebration on Christmas day will be all the sweeter. It also means we will have less of that financial and other stress the articles warn about. But most importantly, celebrating Advent the old school way—with restraint, prayer, and charitable actions—means that we will discover the beauty of Jesus’ humble birth, his faithful life, and his glorious passage from death into life in a whole new way as we wait for the celebration of his coming and for the reality of his coming again.

Thinking of Christ the savior and judge may make us tremble with fear and gratitude, but it will never give us the blues.

 

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on X @davidpdeavel.  

We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...

The AMAC Action Logo

Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.

Donate Now
Share this article:
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
18 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
4 months ago

This is an encouraging article Mr. Deavel , the emphasis on the spiritual aspects of what observing , should probably say honoring , the birth of Jesus Christ is about. I am 73, raised as a Catholic , since about 1975 I have been identifying myself as a believer in the teachings of Christ . As I see it the most important thing about Faith is to understand and practice the substance of Faith, the will of God , the guidance from the teachings of Christ. The symbolism , the ceremonies may have their place , but I do not regard the ceremonies or symbolic expressions as necessary in having Faith in God. In 1975 I was working on a ship engine , taking it apart ,removing it by crane , to get the vessel ready for a new engine. A miracle happened one day when I went up to the top level of the engine room to get a tool needed . An engine part ,weighing about a half a ton was being held in place by ropes several feet directly above where I was working on another engine part .So, just about one minute later those ropes either broke or the hitches gave way and that one thousand pound engine part fell to exactly the area I had been one minute earlier. If I would have not gone to get the tool I needed I would have been either been killed or crippled in that accident . What a difference one minute can make ! I thought then that it was a sign from God , an indication to keep a sense of purpose and always realize that there are spiritual forces that are part of life and people should try to respect what the will of God involves. That way of thinking applies all year round , just as much in June as in December. Thanks for writing this very appropriate article David . I’m O.K. with saying ” Merry Christmas ” – so may you have a Merry Christmas – all year round ! In the spirit of reverence for the ideals of Faith, Family and Freedom .
.

Lieutenant Beale
Lieutenant Beale
4 months ago

@tex (aka troll of many names)
More people died under godless atheistic Communism than any other philosophy.
Leftist Marxists project more hate than all other groups combined.
Reading your asinine posts and all the name calling you do to the people here more than proves my point. You are full of anger and hate. Take a good look in the mirror señor.

Linda
Linda
4 months ago

What a great article about Christmas and its true meaning.

Daniel
Daniel
4 months ago

Excellent article. Jesus IS my Lord

Nan
Nan
4 months ago

My heart aches to read comments of such sadness and hate . May you find your way to Jesus .

Carol
Carol
4 months ago

Thanks so much for this! As an Eastern Christian, it’s nice to see our Advent tradition mentioned! Jesus is the reason for the season! Without Him, there is no Christmas!

David
David
4 months ago

Nice little history lesson and thanks for reminding me of Advent. My children are Woke and want nothing to do with me or my new wife, so this could be a sad and lonely Christmas. I will try the Advent “solution” and fully expect it to work, with God’s help!

Rob
Rob
4 months ago

For tex and those of his mindset, (atheist or agnostic?) Your rants come off as illogical. If you’re convicted against God, none of Christianity should matter to you to elicit such a passionate response. The fact you do react this way , to me, is further proof of God. It is explained in Roman’s, i.e. no man is without excuse. Spoiler alert: Jesus Christ wins in the end. You need to pray for forgiveness, repent of your attitude toward God, and accept the free gift of eternal life God offers. Once you allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in you , you will understand and have liberty in Christ rather then the misery of bondage the devil offers. Read 1 Cor 2:14 to see why.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
4 months ago

Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is Biden gone in November. And a lump of coal in our stockings so we have heat on Christmas Day.

Vonniequirk
Vonniequirk
4 months ago

Who invented Advent? I am a Bible Reading, Bible Believing follower of Jesus Christ and I do not find “advent” mentioned in the bible!

Daniel
Daniel
4 months ago

Tex, I pray you will one day find peace and happiness in the midst of all this chaos we live through today. May you be blessed and surrounded with love and happiness this Christmas.

Eileen
Eileen
4 months ago

You don’t know the concept of confession. Part of the ending of the sacrament is to promise not to repeat the sin! If people go to the priest to confess we say the act of contrition. Amend my life is the last sentence. Funny how non Catholics quote Catholicism without having the whole story!

An older blonde women laughing in the kitchen with a grey haired man.
AMAC’s Medicare Advisory Service
The knowledge, guidance, and choices of coverage you’re looking for. The exceptional service you deserve.
The AMAC App on 3 different iPhone
Download the AMAC App
The AMAC App is the place to go for insightful news wherever you are and whenever you want.
Biden Admin’s War on Women
China
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Stay informed! Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter.

"*" indicates required fields

18
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Subscribe to AMAC Daily News and Games