There’s another carol of the season that evangelicals croon every year at this time. We know these verses as well (or better) than Silent Night:
“The Christmas season is too hard…
Everybody is just so busy…
I’ll never get everything done…
The merchants have made it all so commercial…
I wish it were different…
I know Jesus is the reason for the season, but…”
We start singing the same refrain every year right around December 1. And now we have begun adding another line that expresses our collective ticked-off-ness at all those sorry pagans who won’t say “Merry Christmas” or who fight against nativity scenes.
It’s enough to make Scrooge seem cheery.
It is a daily dilution of Advent
It is a major distraction to our souls.
And at least in my case, it is too often a distraction I choose.
When my son Drew was little, we went to a Christmas parade. There was quite a crowd and lots going on like vendors selling elf dolls, glow-in-the-dark Rudolph noses, cotton candy and more. Drew couldn’t really see the floats, the bands or most importantly, if the anticipated arrival of Santa was close. All he could see were legs. He had to get higher to see. So, he raised his arms in the universally recognized toddler signal for “pick me up…now, please.” I picked him up and put him on my shoulders. He could see everything—what was coming, what was going—and happily stayed there for the rest of the parade.
Advent is about anticipating. It’s about living with our souls on tiptoes, looking for the coming of Christ, the Messiah of God. But here’s the deal for those of us who have been around the faith for awhile: We know that Jesus has already come. We know the whole story—prophets, angel announcements, Bethlehem journey, a virgin birth, shepherd’s wonder and even magi visits.
Once you’ve known something, it’s hard to un-know it. Once you’ve seen something, it’s hard to un-see it. Once you’ve anticipated and experienced a thing, it’s hard to anticipate it again.
Here’s the connection: If I no longer anticipate something that I have experienced before, it’s only a small step from that to boredom. If I get bored, it’s easy to get distracted by something else that grabs my attention.
As troubling as it seems, my distraction at Christmas may signal my simple boredom with the wonder of the Incarnation. I get distracted by merchandising, cranky secularists, busy-ness of even Frosty the Snowman because in some moment of the season, they seem more fascinating. I can even get distracted by my own sufficiency at doing life, and apparently, I seem more fascinating, too.
Boredom with the Incarnation + fascinated by the world & me= a distracted soul.
There are 10 days left until Christmas Eve. Maybe you’ll join me in standing on soul-tiptoes, with aching eyes to see the coming of the Christ again for the first time. If your soul-tiptoes aren’t quite tall enough, then hold up your arms and ask the Father for help to see. He wants us to see this wonder of Incarnation—of Immanuel, God with us– more clearly than we can imagine. It is not boring in the least.