by Jake Hall

 published in Family Matters e-newsletter, 12/12/13

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"It is like Christmas—in July." Remember that phrase? I guess it used to capture the surprise of an unexpected gift in the middle of the year, nowhere near the Christmas season. Lately, it seems that the ramp up to Christmas begins in July, well before there is a chill or a jingle bell ringing in the air. It is enough to make you wonder if we should change the old saying to, "It's like Christmas—in April!"
 
Has year-round Christmas ruined Advent? It is getting harder to tell the difference between Christmas and Advent. For some, Advent remains a deeply penitential season, a strict time of reflection upon the darkness of the world, so that we may recognize the light of Christ. For the adamant Advent faithful, this is a time of introspection and nary a carol will cross their lips until Christmas Eve. "Joy to the World" shan't be heard until Christmas Day.
 
For others, it is a non-stop party. It is all, "Hand me an eggnog and where is the mistletoe?" from Thanksgiving onward. A healthy time of Advent holds serious introspection and serious celebration in tension. Advent gives us the time to think about what we are doing when we celebrate Christmas. It grants the space to consider how we tell the story of Jesus, as we are telling the story of Jesus. The season of Christmas is often so busy, that spiritual impact of the season might be the most surprising thing of all. When it does happen, when you realize the magnitude of God's love for you and for the world, well, that is like...Christmas—at Christmas!
 
This week we have a special opportunity to reflect on the birth of Jesus and to consider how we name and know the newborn King. On Sunday evening, Highland Hills will perform The Visitation in our annual live nativity. You will be presented with two scenes, one contemporary exchange in a diner and one ancient experience. Allow this moment of Advent story telling to give you pause, as you consider how we share the good news of Christ's birth, here and now.