At two San Francisco Bay Area churches, Advent is well under way. Instead of observing the traditional four weeks of Advent, parishioners lit the first of six candles on their wreath (three blue, three white) Nov. 14.
Prince of Peace (Saratoga) and Immanuel (Los Altos) have observed "three weeks of Advent, three weeks of Christmas" since 1997, when an article ("Let's Move Advent," Lutheran Partners, 1991) distributed in the synod triggered the eventual shift by four churches (two ended the experiment).
Jim Friedrich, a pastor of Prince of Peace, says no one openly protested the switch, and music folks rejoiced at singing Christmas hymns during the weeks leading to Dec. 25. In fact, he's seen a more festive spirit at church.
Drawbacks exist — a lack of resources because the lectionary isn't followed for those weeks — but Friedrich says in November "people are more open to a deeper and more serious reflection when nobody around them sings Here Comes Santa Claus."Like others, Kerstin Barnes, a pastor of Prince of Peace, still enters the season with suspicion, wondering, "Should we bend to the pressures of a secularized society? Shouldn't we as the church be countercultural and offer an oasis of peace and reflection in a hectic time of one holiday party after another and crazy Christmas shopping? Fortunately, our salvation does not depend on how and when we observe church holy days."
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