Tuesday, December 4, 2007

234. Christmas Calendar

Is your Christmas calendar filling up? Does it make you think we do this Christmas thing too fast? And then we end it too soon?

I remember when artificial Christmas trees, the kind the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro has erected in Jefferson Square, began popping up in retail stores sometime right after Labor Day. That has lessened a bit and most don't show up until Hallowe'en or thereabouts. Since I do not watch TV or listen to commercial radio, I can't exactly say when I (accidently) heard this year's first advertisement for the season, usually with scenes of snow or ice skating somewhere in the background, but I am sure it came sometime in early November.

This past Sunday morning I attended Mass at Calvary Episcopal Church on S. 4th Street. The Reverend Humpke spoke of many things related to the season of Advent, Sunday being the first Sunday of Advent as I pointed out in the previous post. But he began by saying he had given up (for the most part) of keeping the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas separate, at least as far as living in the secular world was concerned. He mentioned the purists who continue to keep the two separate. I am one of those.

During the next three weeks or so I will attend maybe 12 different Christmas parties, some called Winter Celebrations so as not to offend non-Christians who appreciate the season just as much as the Christians. Added to that will be the festivities surrounding the Inauguration of Steven L. Beshear as Kentucky's 58th Governor, events starting on the 10th and ending on the 12th. And, as previously mentioned, I will begin to do some shopping around the 21st. And while gift-giving and receiving (and re-gifting) is a big part of the season, I'm not sure all of it is directly related to the Mass celebrating the Nativity of Christ, arbitrarily set at December 25th as early as the 3rd century. The date is without question tied to the close-by date of the Winter Solstice and conveniently falls nine months after the Vernal Equinox, assigned by Church fathers as the date of the Annunciation, whereby the angel Gabriel informs Mary she is pregnant with the Son of God.

Gift-giving may be more closely tied to the idea of exchanging gifts as part of a seasonal reason to get together in the coldest and darkest month of the year. Many traditions are tied to Father Noel, Papa Noel, Saint Nicholas, or Santa Klaus. December 6th is assigned as the Feast of Saint Nicholas and many folks, in anticipation of the Christmas celebration a few weeks later, began celebrating by the exchanging of gifts, usually food, at this time. Our jolly old elf is tied to this celebration. There is the gift giving of the Magi recorded in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to the newborn child.

But as the Rector pointed out in his sermon Sunday, for us purists, these weeks leading up to December 25th are for Advent, a time of waiting and preparation, not only for the birth of Christ, but also for the birth of a new year, the expanding hours of sunlight, and the hopes that each New Year brings. Christmas proper begins on December 24th and opens a season which lasts for twelve days, commemorated in the song of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Christmas season ends with the Epiphany in early January, a celebration recorded in one of the first posts of this blog.

As such, I will attend the parties, buy the gifts, and enjoy the season. But I will not hang my wreath or light my lights until the 24th, and will then leave them up for the Twelve Days of Christmas.


Seeker said...

Hey Jeff,

Just happened upon your blog while reading the synopsis of the last 86-64 meeting. I can't wait to read more of it. Very nice.

Your other friend, Denise

westkyone said...

Jeff, enjoyed your post.Rev.Dick Humpke brings back memories from my childhood whereas Dick and Joan were our neighbors on South Main Street in Hopkinsville in the 60's. Our families spent quite a bit of time together. Dick was known for his wit. Christmas has overtaken Advent and covered it with it's commercialization. I too try to keep them separate. The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the church year. The four Sundays of Advent represent the 4 centuries between the phophet Malachi and the birth of Jesus. Many Christians celebrate this season of renewal and aticipaton through the symbolism of the Advent Wreath. The circular shape of the wreath symbolizing the nature of God whereas their is no beginning and no end. A white candle symbolizing Christ surrounded by 3 purple candles and a pink candle. The four outer candles reprsenting each week, the light of Christ which brings forth light into the world.The candles also represent Hope, Peace, preparation and anticipation. The Pink candle representing Joy. Advent is a celebration and a reminder to stay awake and watchful, for the Promised One will come to us at an unexpected hour. Tim

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.