Season of the Red Cups: Advent Meditation, 12/21/2012
By: Joe Chambers
We’re seven weeks deep into the Season of Red Cups, an eight-week celebration of secular Christmas that starts in early November, marked by the introduction of red Starbucks coffee cups, and seems to get bigger and bigger every year. It’s loud, distracting, and it can even be a little bit annoying. It pulls us away from our sacred and quiet time of Advent. It pulls our souls away from waiting for the Lord, and it abruptly ends on Christmas Day, having been completely exhausted. What’s next? Happy New Year, I’m losing 10 pounds.
The first problem with hating on the Season of Red Cups and the secular Christmas is that it comes at the expense of judging other people’s joy. I love when people are joyful, and I think we should all celebrate joyfulness when we have it. And the second problem is that I actually like parts of Red Cup Season (guilty pleasure)!
Have you ever seen the movie “Elf” and felt that oh-so-cozy feeling inside? I know I have. Buddy the Elf does a great job of highlighting quite a few joys about life, including family and love, not to mention Christmas in New York City, which brings personal nostalgia, having lived there for three years. And “Elf” is definitely a part of Red Cup Season. Not a lot of Jesus in there.
There are also other things about this secular Christmas that I enjoy. Eggnog, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, mistletoe, Frosty the Snowman, the story of Santa, a Lexus with the big red bow in the driveway (not really), Christmas trees, giving and receiving gifts, bowl games, dreaming of snow, Rudolph, Charlie Brown. You get the idea. And these things are all pretty much unrelated to the light that we’ve been talking about in Advent. This light that we know is quickly approaching.
All of this material celebration has somehow spun out of our joy for our little savior, our eternal hope, our God incarnate lying in a manger, and it’s pretty powerful stuff. It’s been bombarding us for weeks, and it can truly overtake our focus if we let it. But we should hold strong in our fasts if we have been able. Some of the most meaningful Christmases that I’ve had have been after really disciplined, prayerful, and quite Advents. And the best Christmases I’ve had have been when we celebrate every day for 12 days in a row, and not by giving or receiving superficial gifts, but rather just sharing meaningful time with family and friends.
Balancing the incredibly meaningful seasons of Advent and Christmas with the joys of Red Cup Season might be hard, but we shouldn’t be too rigid about it. We should relax in knowing the true light of the season. And when it comes, let’s celebrate it boldly for 12 days and hold our red cups high, for our souls have waited for the Lord. Because Jesus in the form of a little baby brings so much more joy and hope to the world than any of these secular icons combined, and in his name we put our hope.
God of all mercy, help us be still, help us be joyful, and help us balance the two. Amen