The season of Advent was of little memorable moment in my childhood in the Burke County mountains, though we clearly observed it in one sense. Our Christmas tree went up the afternoon of December 24, never earlier. And it always came down on January 1. Why, I have no idea, probably because so it was when my grandmother's grandmother was a child. Change is hard. I well remember though the excitement of being old enough to go to the midnight service on Christmas Eve at Grace Church, Morganton, NC. That was right up there with graduating from the children's table at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.
To my surprise I found Advent faithfully observed at the federal prison at Butner in my 17 years there. Men and women doing time, away from home and family, don't want to start singing Christmas carols
in November. Christmas is hard enough for them without starting a month early. For them, the Advent hymn 0 Come, 0 Come Emmanuel does fine for the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In truth that hymn works every day of the year, as does the Epiphany hymn, We Three Kings, when you think about it.
Advent in the "real" world of course begins on Black Friday, in the middle of the night after Thanksgiving, or even earlier. The Christmas parade in Raleigh this year was on November 17. It would be lovely to be free of all that before Christmas, but we do still live in this world, and this is a tough time of the year for many folks. Homicide, suicide, bank robbery, and death in general are all up at holiday times. Cops, firefighters, nurses and Marines don't get the day off. And Christ, and we as Christ's hands and feet on this earth, now, in the time of this mortal life, must be there with them.
I read recently that in December 1972, in his last Advent as a guest at the Hanoi Hilton, John McCain was given a Bible but for 5 minutes only. He used the time to copy the Christmas story from Luke. Not a bad choice.
God love you all, and I do too.
Written by Jim Craven