Last week Tom and I returned to Lewis Center United Methodist Church for worship. This is the church we have been attending while parked in Delaware. As you probably know, Thanksgiving was early this year – as early as it can be. Consequently, there should have been one Sunday or “ordinary time” between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. Instead, I was surprised to find Lewis Center UMC starting Advent a week early.
The Christian liturgical year has special days and seasons, just like our annual calendar. The season of Advent is the first season of the liturgical calendar and is the start of the Christian year. So starting Advent a week early is a little like celebrating New Year’s Day on December 25 – it just feels wrong.
But I understand why the pastors at Lewis Center United Methodist Church decided to have five Sundays in Advent this year. Advent is, after all, the time when we prepare our hearts, our lives, and our homes to welcome Jesus. And most people’s Christmas preparations begin immediately after Thanksgiving. According to stores and commercials on television, preparations for Christmas should already be well underway.
Of course, preparing to celebrate Christmas is not the same as the season of Advent. Advent is a holy time and too many of our Christmas preparations have nothing to do with the holy. I love the holiday of Christmas as much as the next person, but preparing our hearts for Christ is not synonymous with putting up a Christmas tree or sending out 30 Christmas cards.
Another reason to start Advent a week early is the series that many pastors use during this season. You can buy packages of Advent materials and most devotionals at this time of year are written with weekly themes for the four weeks of Advent. But many churches have a Children’s Christmas program or cantata that takes up one of those Sundays. This year, Lewis Center can use all four weeks of Advent themes and still have a week left over for the cantata. Bonus!
As I thought about how many Sundays there should be in the Advent season, I realized that the preparations of Advent should not be limited to four Sundays a year. We should always be preparing to welcome Jesus into our hearts. Jesus should be present in our lives on a daily basis, so every morning is a time of Advent.
Although I am very traditional when it comes to the church year, I am ready for the five Sundays of Advent. The more time I have to prepare, the better I can welcome my God and King. May all of us be willing to receive him every day.
Come Lord Jesus be our Guest;
And let these gifts to us be blessed.
And may there be a goodly share;
On every table everywhere.
German table prayer