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Blog // Thoughts
December 9, 2005

Advent: It’s A Construct Dude

The churches closed for Christmas story has generated some debate on the Christian Musician Forum. I’ve found it very intresting to read the views of those that are in favour of (or at least sympathetic towards) the idea of churches closing their doors or scaling down activites on Christmas Day. However, the tone of the […]

The churches closed for Christmas story has generated some debate on the Christian Musician Forum. I’ve found it very intresting to read the views of those that are in favour of (or at least sympathetic towards) the idea of churches closing their doors or scaling down activites on Christmas Day. However, the tone of the debate was dragged down a bit by those who wanted to start calling people Pharisees, which in my books is tantamount to leaving your hat on when you walk into a bar. My view is that people who enjoy picking fights are best avoided, especially on internet fora.

But, getting back to the topic. One interesting view is that since we do not have a Biblical mandate to celebrate Christmas on a given day, then Christmas is just a matter of tradition. I guess one could follow from this an observe the way the timing of Christmas correlates with pagan festivites and even practices. Moreover, some want to add that by having to tight a focus on nativity (and Mary) it obscures the true meaning of Christ’s mission. Therefore, it seems, to not have a full church service on that day does not matter, because it only violates a meaningless and possible harmful man-made practice with no spiritual significance.

Whilst I do not resonate with this point of view, I think it is rich and worth exploring. In fact, there is a lot to support it in the history of the post-reformation church. However, it doesn’t seem compelling to me and over time I have grown unsympathetic towards being anti-tradition for the sake of it.

Christmas is not Easter, sure. Christmas is celebrated on an aritrary date, sure. However, the narratives we choose to remember at Christmas are essential to the Christian faith. The theological signficance of Christ’s birth and it’s circumstances are weighty. The Bible records this not just as a historical footnote, but presents this as an essential exampe of the nature of God’s mission in the world. My problem with closing the doors on Christmas day is simply about this, that by choosing to not name this reality on the day that is commonly associated with Christ’s birth, we capitulate to the cultural forces that rename the day. This is our day, as a church, as believers to remember the birth of Christ.

Could we do it otherwise? Perhaps. Part of my issue with what I am reading is that there doesn’t seem to be a solid alternative being voiced. Just go home and spend time with the family might be enough, but does it really trouble people that much to go to church on that day? My feeling is that if we unravel the issue of the strain this day places on our families, we might end up facing a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions about how much effort goes into these mega-church services and whether that is really necessary and how much effort goes into Christmas family events and whether that is really necessary. The perfect church seeker-service is also a Biblically unfounded construct, as is the perfect family holiday.

So, where does this leave Advent? Well for me this season is nothing but a construct. It is an artifical four-week season that we choose to engage in. For me the appeal of Advent lies in small part, because of it’s Christian heritage, but mostly because it helps to subvert the consumerisation of Christmas. It is history in the service of cultual theology. That doesn’t make it anything more than a construct, it just makes it a construct worth embracing.

[tags] Advent, Christmas, Mega Church, Theology and Culture [/tags]

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