Christmas Means Carnage

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This is a guest post by Olivia Cordray.

Confession time: I hate Christmas.

I hate the hypersaturated department store ads, the jingly music on the radio, “keep the Christ in Christmas,” “Jesus is the reason for the season,” the debate about what seasonal greeting is most inclusive, the pressure to buy gifts for family members you never talk to and only see once a year, the complex social dance involved in deciding upon whom to spend Christmas day with (which is usually settled by answering the real question: who will be most offended if we don’t spend it with them?). It doesn’t help that my family’s inability to deal with the stress of Christmas is legendary. Like the time my mother hurled the Christmas tree off of the deck into the woods, ornaments and all. It’s almost funny in retrospect, such a small woman wrestling that seven-foot live tree through the French doors, returning to announce grimly that she’s never “doing Christmas” again. I don’t even remember what prompted it, but she did this three different years, which makes it even funnier, in a gallows-humor kind of way.

I learned to appreciate gallows-humor at an early age. The 1995 film “Babe” (that’s right— the one about the talking pig) features a duck named Ferdinand whose existential angst stems from his realization that his raison d’etre is to become dinner. In one scene, Ferdinand meditates on the horrors of the season: “Christmas,” he mutters to himself. “Christmas means dinner. Dinner means death. Death means carnage. Christmas means carnage!

The truth is that I feel a lot like Ferdinand, and I know I’m not alone. In the past, Advent has been for me a period of waiting for the hammer to fall. The cheer and merriment of the weeks leading up to Christmas only enhance my irritation and anxiety; the coiling tension as the big day grows nearer corkscrews into me like the psychological equivalent of a medieval torture device. I know to expect an upswing in my own anxiety and heightened sensitivity in my family members, and as I get older I think I’m getting better at bracing myself, but still it gets under my skin in insidious ways,  until I’m mid-argument with my husband about the many inadequacies of his usual last-minute Christmas preparations and I suddenly realize I’m starting to sound like exactly what disgusts me about the holiday season.

This year, though, I’m starting to appreciate Advent for the first time as a much-needed antidote for this surfeit of Christmas jolliness. What I hate about Christmas at its heart isn’t the thing itself, but the insincerity of our rehearsal of its mantras. December has become an aisle down which we rush to get to the cashier and out the door – just gimme my presents already and let’s get on with real life!

My friends, we need to stop. And as counter-intuitive as it sounds, we need to savor our impatience and realize that our disillusionment, or at least our sense of dissatisfaction, is what this time is about. John Keats writes about what he calls “agonie ennuyeuse,” or the tedious agony – the lying-fallow of the poet’s creativity, a period of gestation, waiting until the time is ripe. A period of watchful, active waiting, which acknowledges a sense of incompletion without succumbing to despair. The tedious agony — what we felt as children, nearly aching with impatience for Christmas to arrive. What we feel now, sometimes bitterly disappointed that the time has not yet come.

What we need more than ever is our Messiah to come and deliver us, to mend our broken world, to redeem our broken hearts. Indeed, nothing else will give our wandering hearts rest. Instead of letting our restlessness turn us to pessimism this Advent, let us allow that dissatisfaction to draw our hearts and eyes to God in anticipation of the coming of his Son.

Olivia is a musician at Christ Our King and a graduate student in German Studies at Mizzou. You can follow her on her blog where she writes about pens: penventory.wordpress.com


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Advent Expectancy

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By Bill Yarbrough

Advent has everything to do with expectancy. Expectancy about all the comings of Christ and expectancy about all that he will do among us as we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

During this season, I am always moved by Luke’s account of Simeon’s prophetic embrace of the Christ child when Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. That day for Simeon was the fulfillment of a life-long, prayerful expectation of the first Advent. Of Simeon, Luke writes, “this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (2:25-26). Seeing the baby, this aged saint took the Divine Child from Joseph and Mary and holding him in his arms, blessed God saying “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (2:29-32).

We are all the covenant family of that dear saint and, as family and friends, a question we could be asking during this Advent season is, “Who or what are expecting this Advent season?” I am hopeful that we would all be expectant for a deeper and more intimate fellowship with our Lord and for his healing and saving work in Columbia, or whatever city we reside in, through hearts transformed by grace and through our common life as the Church. May God graciously lead us to take unique and individual steps that would help us cultivate and nurture that relationship both to God and to one another.

Have we considered meeting with someone to pray on a regular basis, with confession and thanksgiving? Have we considered how we may best connect with Love, Inc., Granny’s House, participate in Christ Our King’s Advent food drive, or partner with local ministries that help those in need in whatever town we may reside? Have we considered some fixed times of fasting and intercessory prayer for the many heartbreaking situations, racial, cultural, and sexual that surround us? Have we considered exploring the possibility of personal spiritual direction or participating in a spiritual retreat? Advent is a time for searching our hearts and, with Spirit-filled expectancy, making choices about how to best love and serve God and our neighbor.

Simeon lived expectantly for the “consolation of Israel.” May we join heart and hands with that righteous and devout man during this Advent season, with that same spirit of expectancy about Christ coming to us. Expectancy, most certainly about that ultimate Advent, the second coming of Christ, but equally so, expectancy about our lives and city being transformed by the love of the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the communion of the Holy Spirit.


Here are some resources for deepening your expectancy for Christ to come this Advent:

If you want to learn more about spiritual direction, contact Pastor Bill via Twitter below, or visit the Christ Our King website and drop us a note.

Bill Yarbrough is a Senior Dircector with Mission to the World and is an assisting pastor at Christ Our King. Follow him on Twitter @billyarbrough
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