As a student of theology within the academic academy, I frequently come to the realization that I am overly-critical of the local church and the practices of worship. Dan Lugo has written a blog about this phenomenon; the tension between theologians and ministers. As I was in church this morning I realized that I was being highly critical of the worship service and the way in which the time of worship was separated from the service of the Word. But most of all, I was critical of the service because it was December 23rd, the fourth Sunday of Advent, and we were celebrating the birthday of Jesus. I wondered if this was one of those situations in which I was overly-critical, living in a theological ivory-tower.
I have been thinking about this for the last few hours and continue to arrive at the conclusion that this is anything but one of those trivial matters. Why do I feel it is so important to observe the fourth Sunday of Advent on this day rather than arriving at Christmas Eve/Christmas early? It’s because of the fact that when we spend more time waiting (Advent), the waiting increases the importance of the celebration. This has been common knowledge among the history of believers. The three great festivals of the Hebrew/Jewish tradition were made “great” because there were three of them, each prepared for and anticipated. When these great feasts/festivals arrived, they were great because of the powerful themes and because of the mentality and attitude that the believers have been preparing with for much time.
The more I study Dr. Robert Webber’s works, and the more I experience the church calendar, the more I realize the importance of rhythm and of time. When we recognize and observe ordinary time, our extraordinary time is made more incredible. Advent is the time spent and observed in order to make the celebration and observance of the incarnation of Christ even more wonderful: much more wonderful than commercial/capitalistic society tells us. So as I conclude, I will not lessen my criticism of the observance of Christmas, when we are still to observe and participate in a time of waiting. By no means does this mean separation from these types of churches, but it gives me a great desire to impact and influence them.