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Opening the doors

What do you see in your Advent calendar?

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I always liked Advent Calendars. What kid wouldn’t—prying open the doors, counting down the days, and building up excitement till you get to Christmas morning. The Advent calendars now in the stores celebrate snowmen, Harry Potter, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Barbie, and specialty coffees.

You expected that by 2021, but not so fast. It does not necessarily go without saying that a culture that has moved beyond their forefathers’ religion would do away with its very names and narratives. We name planets for the retired gods Jupiter and Venus. We don’t get rid of Patrick on St. Patrick’s Day and call it Harry Potter Day. We hold a shopworn Santa Claus back from the abyss of cultural forgetfulness. So why is not the baby Jesus kept alive at least in myth form?

So thorough is the deliberate extinguishment of the historical Christmas story that it suggests more afoot than mere preference for frivolity and fashionable fables. Jesus was murdered once (Acts 3:15) and, to my thinking, is being murdered again each year. Why the desperate need to keep on killing one they claim is dead and of no relevance?

There’s someone else involved in the affairs of men, who cuts short promising discussions.

I wondered what the youngsters of this generation know of Christmas. This empty-nester had to seek out other people’s children for an answer. I found three on a park bench at the high school and made bold to introduce myself: “Please tell me what you know about the origin of Christmas,” I asked, standing in their space. Stunned by the question and the unlikely questioner, the middle boy first took a stab: “I think it’s about a king giving slaves away as gifts.” I marveled at the whisper-down-the-lane feel of his understanding and asked him who told him that. “My grandmother,” he said.

While this reply was proffered, the boy to his right had quietly said, “Jesus.” I turned my focus next to him and sought elaboration. “Jesus’ birthday,” he added. “Who is Jesus?” I probed. “God’s Son,” he said, with less certainty. The till-now silent third student jumped in: “He made a sacrifice.” “What sacrifice? And why?” I asked. But one now was on his cell phone, and waning interest was palpable.

In a last try I asked if they had ever seen in baseball bleachers bobbing homemade signs with “John 3:16” on them. They had not. I said, “For God so loved the world he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Just then a car pulled up, and it looked like their ride. The moment disappeared into thin air.

I puzzled at the timing, not imagining that God would run that kind of interference. But of course there’s someone else involved in the affairs of men, who cuts short promising discussions, who likes it well that Barbie lurks behind the doors of Advent cards. He must remain until a second Advent—not of the bunting baby Jesus but the King in regal splendor. Of that crafty “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) the Apostle also voiced frustration: “We wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

There are two kingdoms, one of light and one of darkness. Both have secret doors, and people walking through them all the time. Mine happened to be in the Swiss Alps, and glad I was to open it and find, as the Pevensie children did, a country different from the one the carnal eye can see. The other kingdom has its trap doors too, which outwardly look beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones.

Jesus is the threat to that dark kingdom. Jesus, and not Jupiter or Venus or however many pretenders adorn the racks of what passes for Advent cards. And for this cause the world would try to kill him every Christmas if they could.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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