Some of my priest colleagues are known as the “Advent Police.” They want to see Advent as a season completely separate from Christmas. There shouldn’t even be hints of Christmas peeking into Advent. Part of me hopes that those “Advent Police” don’t show up here at Saint James. For the “Advent Police,” Christmas decorations, including trees, wreaths, and especially the manger scene, should only magically appear before midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
I have to admit that I bordered on being an “Advent Police” person before my first Advent as your priest-in-charge. There can be something truly beautiful and almost magical about the sudden change in church decorations between the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve. In some churches, the process of making the church look Christmas-y has its own name: the greening of the church. Here at Saint James, though, there is a gradual change, a progression of changes in church decorations. Our church is gradually “greened.”
One week sees the banners hung. One week sees the tree up. One week sees the bows on the pews. Finally, just in time for Christmas Eve, the tree is decorated, and the Christ Child is moved from Kerri’s mailbox and gently placed in the manger.
So how did I change my tune? How did I stop being an “Advent Police” person? Well, part of it was because I dare not mess with long-standing traditions. Who knows who began the gradual greening of the church, but I am not about it change it now. In addition to not wanting to mess with tradition, I came to see some theological sense in gradually greening the church.…