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Advent Calendar Revisited

By Cory L. Kemp

Do you recognize the signs that Christmas is already on its way? Sure you do. Children are back in school, the Halloween candy and costumes are on display, and very soon, the holiday decorations will be nudging their way into every nook and cranny of your favorite stores. My L.L. Bean catalogue arrived yesterday with the suggestion to, "Wrap up your holiday shopping early with the best possible gifts at the best possible prices."

These, of course, aren't the only signs of Christmas, but they are our most visual, and if honest with ourselves, are representative of what our culture has narrowed the season down to: presents. It has been said that the love of money is the root of all evil. The same could be said for the fear of not buying presents for everybody in our lives. Neither money or presents are evil, but focusing all our attention or life's purpose on acquiring either or both, does distort our faith perspective and view of the world.

That said, retailers, in their aspiration to achieve increased profits, have really done us a favor: they have redefined the Advent Calendar.

Did you have an Advent Calendar as a child? Or perhaps you have one for your children now. Most Advent Calendars are made of cardboard and are filled with small flaps that are raised, one per day of Advent, to reveal a picture or a scene related to Christmas. Some are much more elaborate, but the idea is the same. each day brings us closer to the arrival of Christ's coming, and each day we prepare our hearts and our lives to receive this most special of gifts from God.

What retailers have done for us is to expand and extend this Advent Calendar. Although their motive is profit, our intent, as people of faith, can be self-defined as an opportunity to prepare more peacefully and more fully for this season that is meant to be joyful, and frequently is not. This mental adjustment may take some though, but bear with me.

How many times have you wished, in the middle of December, for the chance to sit down, relax for a few moments with a cup of tea, and breathe, perhaps remembering a favorite Christmas experience and the pleasure it still brings to your life? Have you wanted to be more leisurely in choosing gifts for your loved ones, but never took the time because it wasn't really the season yet? Have you hoped for quality time with your family, a real meal together without interruptions and distractions and so much tension all you do is get irritated with one another? All of those wishes, dreams and hopes can be transformed into reality, now, because the main thing to remember about Advent is that it is our preparatory time before the Christ arrives.

There is absolutely nothing wrong, and everything right about giving ourselves permission to enjoy the luxuries of pondering Emmanuel, God With Us, and preparing ourselves to receive God again before the traditional Advent Calendar takes hold of our schedules. I suspect we would all feel better about the swift onslaught of the holiday activities if we felt we had honored the relationship with God that sparked the whole process in the first place.

With this in mind, I share with you my favorite Christmas card message: "Wishing you all the joys of this shining season as we welcome Christmas once again."

About The Author
Cory L. Kemp

As an ordained minister I have worked in educational ministries in several congregations, as well as pastoring a congregation. My writing has focused on nonfiction essays and I have recently submitted a theological memoir for publication. My ministerial background and love of writing have combined to develop Creating Women Ministries, a website dedicated to encouraging theological dialogue, particularly among women, through workshops, journaling and personal spiritual development.

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