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This page last updated 19 December 2004
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Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

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Letters from 6 December to 12 December 2004

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters are the opinions of the letter writers and not Anglicans Online. We publish letters that we think will be of interest to our readers, whether we agree with them or not. If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

Could resurrecting Advent be the great uniter?

Last week, the Rev. William Bippus wrote of his encounter with an ecumenical lectionary study group where:

"...quite naturally, the meaning and purpose of Advent arose. One of the group, from a church which has not traditionally observed liturgical seasons such as Advent or Lent, suggested that we stop trying to 'hold out' against the prevailing culture, and simply celebrate the mystery of the Nativity throughout the entire month of December. In other words, let the carols begin!"

In the present "crisis" of Anglicanism about matters sexual and orthodox - ad nauseam - perhaps this is one item around which we can ALL unite. That is, unless there are some caring Anglicans who want to cave in to the prevailing secular culture, which would be few. Ahhh, gentle men and women, think of the united missonary power we Anglicans could display if we took on the single task of introjecting Advent back into Christmas...

Perhaps one may think such a task is not possible in terms of the weight of the secular culture. One can debate that. However, there is one thing that is beyond debate. That is our common sense of Anglican ethos and identity expressed in common prayer. In this case, that prayer as expressed in the liturgy, is clothed in the mantle of the violet and the blue, that Advent wreath and the expectation that is not known elsewhere. Dispite our differing views on other issues, there is a great deal that we can accomplish together with the bonds that reamain strong if one notices.

Robert Zacher
the North Dakota diocese
Fargo, North Dakota, USA
6 December 2004

Warm place in my heart for early decorations

Your message on this second week of Advent reminds me of the two Christmases I spent in retail, as a clerk in a kitchen wares shop. That first Christmas I realized something new. We here in the U.S. are blessed, or cursed, with enormous choice, unlike anything anywhere else in the world. And the Halloween-to-Christmas (yes, it now begins at Halloween!) buying season makes that choice possible.

After working with people invested in that shop, I never quite had the same loathing for the end of year buying frenzy I had had before. I sensed that, even though many shops who can't make the cut close up, many more would close without that buying spree, leaving people unemployed and leaving us the consumer at the mercy of the choices of the survivors - witness the experience of some towns to which WalMart comes.

So while I still deplore our obsessive consumerism, at the same time my husband Newlin and I will put up the icicle lights on the front of our church-provided house today, Monday of Advent 2, and we've bought a Christmas tree and will put it up today. At the same time, while we will buy presents for each other, we won't buy them for the rest of the family. We're donating a flock of mixed barnyard fowl through Heifer International instead. And to make space inside myself I do a piece of art each morning as part of my prayer time, a piece that reflects my feelings on the readings of the day.

But I will remain torn about our consumerism, because I have those two years when my own livelihood depended on others consuming conspicuously. And since I believe in Santa Claus, I'll also continue to have a warm place in my heart for the early decorations that go up around town. I just wish some of them would be a little more tasteful - blow-up Frosty the Snowmen don't turn me on.

The Reverend Lois Keen
St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA
6 December 2004

Secular decorations usually have Christian origin and meaning

In general, I agree with your thoughts about Advent and Commercial Christmas, but some niggling things.....

Many 'decorations' in fact have Christian meaning, and these can be reclaimed if we pass it on to children [and adults for that matter]. For example the candy cane is in fact a shepherds crook reminding us of the Good Shepherd. The traditional pattern is one broad red stripe, four narrow red stripes and one green stripe recalling the five wounds of Christ, and the life [green] He offers us. Peppermint was an embalming spice [and tastes better than myrrh] and of course the sugar reminds us of the sweetness of Christ's love for us. Garlands are hung out to welcome a hero or monarch, globes hung from the evergreen tree recall the planets in their courses, sustained [suspended] by their creator, and lights and stars go without saying I hope. In our parish we always have a visit from St. Nicholas to make the faith connection with the commercial Santa Claus.

While we may not be able to change the commercial world's attitude to our feast, we can subversively reclaim the interpretation for our own people so that all the work they put into the decorations become ubiquitous reminders for us of the awesomeness of the incarnation.

Peace and blessings to you all as we prepare in wonder for the coming of the Christ Child.

Bob Webster
St. Catherine, Bird's Hill
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
6 December 2004

Sabotaging the tree? Won't work here

I liked your throughts about recapturing Advent and Christmas and loved the idea of sabotaging the office tree. I'd love to try it but it won't work in my case.

It was always a family custom to bring in the tree, which we would cut down ourselves, and decorate it on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was kept purely for decorating the tree and the house and other Christmas preparations.

I say "family" tradition; for 30 years my parents lived in Libya, and it was something we picked up in Tripoli in the 1950s from the Italian community there. But it stuck and still sticks. Much to the initial annoyance of friends and flatmates, the tradition has been maintained, to the point now that some actually copy me; they may go to parties but they too do not decorate until Christmas eve. Not many,of course, but some - and, probably significantly, they don't have children at home.

So no point sabotaging their trees. But it might have been fun.

Michel Cousins
Scotland, France, and Saudi Arabia
6 December 2004

To accompany the Advent decorations

Thank you for your suggestion of dividing secular and sacred holiday decorations. At my house we have a tradition of a "winter village" that goes up soon after Thanksgiving, along with the Advent wreath and the Advent calendar. This seems to satisfy our children's desire to anticipate Christmas, without anticipating the sacred feast.

Jaime Sanders
Christ Church
Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA
7 December 2004

How should we code our ribbons?

We are reorganizing our acolyte corps and are trying to decide a coding for the ribbons on the acolyte crosses or medals. Differing colors for one year, two year, three years etc. of service. Any recommendations?

The Rev. Robert R.M.Bagwell
Trinity Parish
Stoughton, Massachusetts, USA
12 December 2004

Earlier letters

We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All of our letters are in our archives.


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