Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Already I have noticed it. Both in the world and in the sanctuary. We are not even one week into December and the Christmas songs are filling the noisy space of department stores. And, from a smattering of received church bulletins, it seems the songs of Christmas made their way into the sanctuary this past Sunday. Songs like "Joy to the World," "Angels from the Realms of Glory," and "O Come, All Ye Faithful" are already being sung. In the early days of Advent, I have always enjoyed other songs. "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" are a couple of must sing hymns during these days. "Emmanuel, Emmanuel" is another one.
John the Baptist's message can loosely be translated to be: "Get ready. Something is about to happen, but it has not happened yet." Viewed in this way, it is the message that calls us to live in a state of anticipation. In our culture of having everything now, it is hard to get folks to buy into the benefits of delay for the purpose of anticipation. One way to move in that direction is to intentionally deny ourselves the music we might want to sing, or to withhold the Christmas hymns until Christmas. When "O Come, O Come All Ye Faithful" is withheld and sung for the first time on Christmas Eve, it becomes such a powerful experience of joy that it brings tears to the eyes and such a tightness to the throat that singing is for a moment impossible.
Such a discipline of withholding can enable us to get in touch with the spirit of Advent. Make no mistake. To do so is to live with tension. But, then, maybe part of the tension comes from the fact that we are aware that something is about to happen, but it has not yet happened."