For the secular world, the Christmas season begins with that curiously American phenomenon called Black Friday. This year, 87 million Americans went shopping that dark day, more than the number of Americans (83 million) who voted in the midterm elections earlier in November.
And now what had until recently been a single exhausting Friday has sprawled both backward and forward to include Gray Thursday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. For the four-day weekend, 133 million Americans spent $51 billion.
How we got from the story of a homeless infant born to an unwed teenager in a stable because there was no room for him anywhere else, to this surfeit of conspicuous consumption, is a long and complicated story, but if like me you feel the need to reorient yourself to a quieter, more authentic, and more spiritual holiday season, this is the place to be.
For the Church, the Christmas Season begins the same weekend as the secular world’s—November 30 this year, the First Sunday of Advent—but the Church’s Christmas season is starkly different from the secular world’s.
The word ‘Advent,’ as you well know, is Latin for “to come toward.” In Christ, God “came toward us,” deigned to don our own shape and form to teach us how to be and to live.
It is a season of both memory and anticipation, a time to look back in memory toward his first coming at Bethlehem so long ago, and forward in hope to his next and last at the end of time.
This coming Sunday, December 7, is the Second Sunday of Advent, and the Chancel Choir will help us to celebrate the season by presenting, with orchestral accompaniment, a charming choral work called The Seven Joys of Christmas by contemporary American composer Kirke Mechem, first presented in San Francisco in 1964.
Born in Wichita and raised in Topeka, young Kirke was a gifted athlete who had his eye on a career in sports reporting. After high school, Northwestern University offered him a scholarship in journalism, but Mr. Mechem, who once interviewed Joe Louis and could think of nothing more provocative to ask the former heavyweight champion than “How do you like Topeka, Joe?”, elected instead to play tennis at Stanford University, where on a whim he registered for a harmony course which hooked him on the mystery and magic of choral music. Since then, Mr. Mechem’s operas, songs, and sacred works have made him one of America’s most renowned choral composers.
The Seven Joys of Christmas is a series of carols from English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish traditions, so familiar and beloved as to make your heart break with the loveliness of it.
I found the work so compelling that for my three Advent sermons this year, I will preach about three of The Seven Joys of Christmas—The Joy of Children on December 7, The Joy of Mary on December 21, and The Joy of Love on Christmas Eve.
Please help us welcome Him into our lives again in a fitting way.
Rev. Dr. William A. Evertsberg