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February 4, 2023

Religion: Enjoying the Christmas sprint…

By the time you read this article, you may have very well taken your last bite of Thanksgiving dinner. You’ve let your belt out a notch and put the leftover turkey, potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce into to-go containers for your guests to take home. A wide choice of pies and ice cream have been put out for dessert and football is on TV. Life is good! However…Thanksgiving is almost over and now we stand at the starting line for the sprint to Christmas! 

Pastor Trevor Van Laar

While it seems as though the big box stores decorated for Christmas last July (looking at you, Costco and Home Depot!), the end of Thanksgiving signals that we can now officially start shopping for a Christmas tree and playing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” at full volume with no judgment for the next four weeks. It’s time for gift lists to be exchanged and Amazon to start delivering! 

There will be parties to go to, ugly sweaters to wear and plenty of small talk to be made. There will be school “Holiday” parties to provide snacks for, work parties to behave for and mistletoe opportunities to ponder. All in all, it seems like a sprint just to make it to Dec. 25!

In a season that seems to fill our calendars with parties, shopping and special events, how can we slow down and enjoy the Christmas sprint?

For thousands of years, Christians have celebrated the tradition of Advent. Celebrated over the four weeks leading to Christmas (which is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ), it is a tradition of remembrance and anticipation. The first two Sundays of Advent anticipate the return of Jesus Christ to this earth and the last two Sundays remember Jesus Christ’s time on this earth. The fifth observance (Christmas Day) celebrates Christ’s birth on earth with us. 

Celebrating Advent is a way to slow down and appreciate the reason for Christmas. Away from the mindset of our worldly wants, desires and responsibilities, Advent helps us to think of the miracle of a pregnancy, the innocence of a newborn child and the promise given through the birth of that child. A promise of peace and joy on this earth and salvation from evil and certain eternal death. 

In comparison to the pile of gifts we purchase, give and receive, Advent highlights the role of God in our life and the priceless gift he has already given to us of his love and kindness through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ.

If the thought of the upcoming Christmas season is daunting at all, know that Advent doesn’t just belong to Christians who celebrate it—it can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to celebrate the real reason for Christmas. Every Advent observance, regardless of whether it includes a religious element, touches on our need to have peace, beauty and joy amidst all the craziness of the season.

Christmas is coming—slow down and enjoy the sprint!

Trevor Van Laar is a Pastor at Gilroy and San Martin Presbyterian Churches. He is a member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance and can be reached at [email protected].

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