By Pastor Paula Burchill
How did I go from being a liturgical purist early in my ministry to listening to Christmas music on the radio since November 14? I just have to chuckle.
I love the seasons of the church year. This Sunday is our “New Year’s Eve,” aka Christ the King Sunday and then Advent, one of my favorite seasons begins. Advent is a time of preparation. We get ready for Christmas, of course, but we are also preparing for Jesus to come again. It is a season of candles and quiet and waiting and hope. I love the hymns of Advent—the longing they convey. It is so counter-cultural.
When I was a young pastor, almost 20 years ago, I loved to encourage people to be counter-cultural. Hold off on the Christmas music and parties and baking. After all, Christmas begins on December 25 and lasts 12 days. What if we save the celebrating and go hog wild during the feast days of the church? I would try and put my tree up at the last minute, I probably did listen to Christmas music, but for sure not before Thanksgiving, but I really did want to practice waiting because I believe it is a lost art.
So what has happened? Why is it that this year I seem to Need a Little Christmas a whole lot earlier?
I still love Advent. I still wish we lived in a world that was better about waiting. I wish I could make the 12 days of Christmas a non-stop celebration.
But when my son and I were in the car and jamming to Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, he looked at me and said, mom, I like Christmas music because it makes me feel so happy.
For sure, I have gotten older and hopefully also a bit wiser. The seasons of the church year are not commandments. They are not the gospel. They exist for us and our faith, we don’t exist to follow them rigidly. I think of my first parish and am so grateful for how patient they were with a young and zealous pastor.
Because right now, I’m just needing to feel Christmas. It has been a hard year for a lot of people. And I know this season is not merry for many, but Jesus comes into this hard and broken world and becomes broken for us. And I’m ready to celebrate that.
Even if I have to put up with hearing Gramma Got Run Over By a Reindeer 87 times before the 12 Days of Christmas even begin.
Maybe it is a good lesson on celebrating what matters. Jesus is here, right now, in this place. Immanuel. God with us–wherever we are.