I brought my Santa hat to work today. Yes, I know Advent doesn’t begin until this coming Sunday. But tonight is Renison’s Christmas dinner, and I am playing “Megan Claus” in the Renison Follies’ production of The Renison Express (loosely based on the story The Polar Express.)
It’s a funny thing here on campus. I know it was always a tension in the parish – the debate between when can we bring out the Christmas carols and decorations, and how do we maintain a focus on Advent? But honestly, that tension never really started until Advent began. At the university, Christmas begins before I have even pulled the Advent wreath out of storage! The distance between observing the church year, and the cultural celebration of Christmas is emphasized…
And yet, here I am, the Anglican priest on campus, fully participating in all of the Christmas revelry. Grinning as I walk into the Great Hall and the garlands of (soda) crackers have once again been hung by students overnight. Humming along with the Christmas carols playing on laptops. Enjoying the lights from the tree in the hallway outside the Ministry Centre. Oh – and being “Megan Claus” in the Christmas play.
Why? Because much of this Christmas ‘stuff’ is about community. The students in residence become a quite tight-knit group over the twelve weeks of term – by the time Christmas actually arrives, they will have dispersed across the country and around the world. In a small college, the staff and faculty are an integral part of that community. Surely the message of Christmas, at its most ‘religious’, is about the incarnation, and the presence of God in our relationships and community.
I do weave Advent into it all though. This is not an “either/or” situation. A colleague of mine used to be fond of quoting Teresa of Lisieux, “I choose all!” That is how I feel about this supposed conflict between Advent and Christmas observance: I choose all! Because God is in it all. Tonight, before the dinner we will light the first candle of the Advent wreath and pray that we can “practice hope”. Throughout December we will have an Advent calendar in the Ministry Centre, and a midweek lighting of the wreath. The chapel is putting together an Advent blog (check us out at stbedes.tumblr.com). But I will also rejoice at the Christmas dinner this evening, and wish countless staff and students ‘Merry Christmas,” and on the last Sunday in December before the college closes for the break, the chapel will put on a Christmas Pageant (using finger puppets – don’t ask!)
So I wish you and yours a blessed and holy Advent season, where you may know that yearning and waiting are part of sacred time. And may you also have a very merry Christmas, and see that God has truly come among us as a newborn baby. Hallelujah!