Friday, December 17, 2010

Why We Celebrate Advent

It seems that some people are unfamiliar with Advent, and wonder what it is and why we celebrate it. So, I thought I would explore that topic for the next couple of days.

Today I am going to share Why we celebrate Advent.

My husband and I both grew up believing in Santa Claus, and had a lot of fun Christmas memories, so when we had children, we naturally followed that tradition in our family. Just like Christians who try to blend creationism and evolution into some version of theistic evolution, we tried to somehow blend a celebration of Jesus' miraculous birth with the anticipation of Santa's no-less miraculous giving of gifts to every child on Christmas Eve.

In December of 1991, we were sitting in Sunday School class one Sunday when the teacher boldly wrote the following word on the chalkboard:


He told us to re-arrange the letters and see what word we got.

We saw it immediately -- SATAN.

He challenged us to not look at that as a random coincidence. He shared from his heart how he felt it was ultimately Satan who was behind all of the hoopla around Santa Claus, because it took away the focus and wonder from Jesus and His birth. A humble Jesus born in a lowly manger to take away the sins of the world -- as wonderful as that is, it just can't compete with a jolly, chubby little man in a red suit with a long white beard who drives a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer and somehow manages to slide down chimneys and deliver gifts to children every where.

He also taught us that when we give Santa Claus the attributes that belong to God alone, it is a form of blasphemy. Think about the song, which I will admit, I find myself singing this time of year!

You better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I'm telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He knows if you're asleep.
And he know if you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.

When we teach our children that Santa knows if they're asleep or awake and if they've been bad or good, we are telling them that Santa is all-knowing. Only God is omniscient!

When we say that Santa is able to deliver presents to children everywhere on Christmas Eve, we are basically saying that he is able to be everywhere at once, but only God is omnipresent!

When we say that he knows if they are bad or good, we are setting him up as a moral judge, but God is the Judge!

Everyone knows that Santa Claus lives forever. He's been taking yearly trips in his sleigh for centuries and he doesn't have to worry about crashing his sleigh, because Santa can never die! But only God is eternal! Jehovah is the One who is, and was, and forever more shall be!

Do you see how we unknowingly give the holy attributes of God to Santa Claus???

Then, when our children are a bit older and wiser, we (or some friends at school) suddenly reveal the truth to them --  Santa is not real!  He is pretend!!  I don't know about you, but I still remember when I discovered that Santa was not real, and I was devastated!   ;)  So we tell our children, "All of that Santa stuff is just pretend, but all of that stuff about Jesus is real."  And then we wonder why so many of our youth decide to reject Jesus and say there is no God. After all, there is no Santa Claus, and they have the same attributes . . . . (I'm not saying that if your children believe in Santa Claus, they will reject God. But, I'm suggesting it is not helping the pretty grim statistics of youth from Christian homes who continue in the faith.)

Perhaps you are reading this and feel this is utterly ridiculous and see Santa Claus as totally harmless and fun. That's fine. I'm just sharing my story. All I can tell you is that that morning when we first heard this, our hearts were smote! My husband and I couldn't wait to get out of that Sunday school class and talk about what had been shared and what we were going to do about it! When God speaks to your heart, you know it! And we knew He was speaking to us about this matter. 

So, from that point on, we no longer perpetuated the myth of Santa Claus with our children. We told them the truth about Santa, and that all presents under the tree came from their Mom and Dad, because we loved them, and not from Santa Claus. 

However, we soon realized that removing Santa Claus from your Christmas celebration leaves a gaping hole.  I kept thinking of this passage of scripture from Matthew chapter 12, and felt we needed to replace it with something:

43 "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation."

It was at that point that I heard about celebrating Advent.  I really don't remember now where I encountered the idea, but I do know that I purchased a set of Advent candles and a book to guide us through the celebration of Advent.  The book was Advent Foretold by Gary and Wanda Sanseri.  It is an excellent book.  While not as exciting or fun as the Jotham series, it certainly captures and communicates the true meaning of Christmas and the importance of using Advent as a time for Preparing for His coming.


Rebecca's Refining said...

Isn't it sad how there is even much debate and division among the Christian community about this issue? I know of one family that does not celebrate Christmas (no gifts, tree, etc..) because of the commercialism and paganism associated with this holiday. I don't share their conviction, but I do agree even as Christians we can get wrapped up in worldliness and commercialism without even realizing it....and not just at Christmas!
I remember our pastor in Charleston preaching the concept of santa being from satan. We never went down the santa road in our family, though we both grew up with that tradition in the home. It is devastating to most kids...I remember getting teased because I believed in santa so long, and then the great disappointment that no such person does exist. But, like you point out...He Jehovah God! God is the only one with the qualities that santa supposedly has, and He is even better!
True joy can not be attained in the many gifts, family gatherings, or parties associeated with the Christmas season, but in Christ alone, and He truly is The Reason for The Season! May we not lose the vision of living for eternity, not just at Christmas, but in every season of life!

Lisa Grace said...

We are reading a book each evening called The Jesse Tree and I love how it goes through the lineage of Christ, highlighting each ancestor's story for our children. It is building up to the birth of our Lord and linking events my kids might not have connected otherwise.

Samantha said...

We are being laughed at by people for giving up Halloween and Santa. The Jesse Tree is scoffed at by many, or they feel we can do both- I don't agree. We have been seen as extreme for our changes. We only want to do what is right. If a Christmas special with the guy in the red suit is on, we will let the kids watch it, but they know he isn't real, and we do not give him a place in our home. Most importantly to us, he does not have a place in our hearts.
I would like to know more about the candles- where to find them and all of that. I am looking forward to your next few posts!

Samantha said...

I just realized you answered my question about the candles, thanks! I could not get your picture to load yesterday, so I didn't see your candle, and the pic of the amazon link was not working a minute ago. Thanks again!

JBirch22 said...

... The origin of Christmas doesn't even have ANYTHING to do with Jesus.

I suggest you do some research on Yule and Saturnalia traditions. You may learn something about your precious jesus-centric holiday.

This is sad :(

Noel said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to explain all this. We've never used Santa in our Christmas celebrations, but we do need something Biblical in its place. Just reading the Christmas story and singing Christmas hymns doesn't seem like enough. I love that Isaiah proclaimed that a King was coming and it another passage told of the lamb that would die. These thoughts have been on my heart alot lately :)

Michelle (She Looketh Well) said...

Good post, Elizabeth. It wasn't long into our salvation that we stopped the Santa thing too. Each year we have been more and more convicted to not even celebrate Christmas. Each year brought more changes, giving up more of the traditions. One year I developed an allergy to pine, of all things, and I refuse a fake tree (I always loved the huge trees my dad used to get) so there went the tree. Shortly after that we were convicted with the Jeremiah passage and never went back. the more we seek to 'be not conformed' the this world, the easier it becomes to let these things go.

We DO NOT judge others,nor have become legalistic about this. This is just where we feel the Lord has us right now. Who knows what next year will look like.

Greg and Donna said...

We came to the same Santa conclusion just a week ago. We blended everything for years, but listened to sermons on Sermon Audio that talked about Santa and why its wrong. When I had heard of folks not doing "Santa" I would ask why but never got a good clear answer. You just gave the good answer. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

Jules said...

I haven't read this post fully or the comments yet but I'll be coming back when I have more time. As I started reading my eldest son rang and he was telling me that they'd had someone come to the house today and their eldest daughter who will be 4 this month was showing the visitor their Christmas tree when she was asked "Is Santa going to bring you a lot of presents?" She looked at the visitor as if he was stupid and said "Santa's not real you know." My son and his wife do not 'do' Santa Claus and yet the children still get just as much excitment out of Christmas as other children. It's a lie that if we take away Santa then children lose some of the wonder and excitement of Christmas. I think the opposite is true.

But Advent ... I've never thought of celebrating that ... hence the reason I'm going to come back when I've got more time and read and think some more.

tlmalcolm said...

Do some research on the orgin of Santa or St. Nicholas, or La Befana and you will learn where the custom came from. La Befana is a sweet tale from Italy. St. Nicholas also had its origin in giving gifts and helping. They are wonderful stories that do not have to take away the real meaning of Christmas. My favorite ornament is a Santa kneeling by a baby Jesus in a manager! If your faith is strong a fairy tale does not have to be in conflict or threaten your faith in the miracle of the Birth of Jesus as why we celebrate Christmas. Santa is not the reason some children grow up not to be Christians. It is much more complex than that! And as for SANTA just being another word for SATAN (well I have no words for that comparison except I guess very sad). Our church displays a Jessie Tree each Christmas. I love the story. I truely believe that there are wonderful ways to celebrate Christmas both the spiritual, religious and with the fun of Santa! And of course, you knew I'd have this opinion!:)

tlmalcolm said...

Here's a good article on the origin of Santa or formally known as St. Nicholas!

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