Christmas: The most porous time of the year

Published November 24, 2015

It feels strange to write a Christmas column before Advent has even begun-especially a Christmas column that is going to be published before Advent has even begun. My voice is usually added to the chorus of complainers, pleading with people to give Advent its time and delay the Christmas frenzy as long as possible. My Christmas tree does not goes up, Christmas carols are not allowed in the house and the stable stands empty in the nativity scene until the last Sunday of Advent has been properly observed.

I commend such disciplines to you all.

But we mustn’t let ritual purity interfere with our ability to respond to the opportunity given to us by the way Christmas is observed in the secular world. And, as all church leaders know, we have to plan at least a season ahead. So, a Christmas column before Advent.

Christmas has burst beyond the bounds of the church. It is no longer in our control, if it ever was. We might not like all of the consequences of that. We might regret some of the history that led up to it. We might want to argue about what counts as “real” Christmas. Or, we could try to see what God is doing in the midst of the tinsel and twinkle lights.

The (pre-) Christmas season is an emotionally heavy time. People are happier than usual. People are more thoughtful and generous and grateful and hopeful than usual. People are also sadder than usual; more worried and lonelier than usual. Sometimes, the same people are all of those things at the same time.

The church has something to say to all those people. The Advent message of a promise worth waiting for, even in the darkness of despair and destruction, is a message of hope our world needs to hear. The Christmas message of a God who wants to be with us so much that God became one of us is a message of love our world needs to hear.

And, thanks to all the Christmas festivities, our annual chance to share the good news as church is on people’s radars in a more pronounced (and positive) way than is perhaps usual.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is: are we ready? Do our Advent programs speak to anybody beyond our walls? Are our Christmas bazaars more than just fundraisers? Are we providing care to people who struggle with the holidays? Are our services arranged to welcome the visitors who come only once a year?

Have we thought about ways to participate in the community’s celebrations as well as hoping they might participate in ours?

At Christmas, the boundary between heaven and earth is revealed to be more porous than we could have possibly imagined. At Christmas, the boundary between our churches and our communities is more porous than we are used to. Let us rejoice-and make good use of these marvellous gifts.


  • Rhonda Waters

    The Rev. Rhonda Waters is incumbent of the Church of the Ascension, diocese of Ottawa.

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