We’re writing this post on December 23rd, or the eve of Christmas Eve and the final hours of Advent.
As we do, we have a warning for the Episcopal Church and many of its sister denominations: You’re not ready for Christmas.
Specifically, the vast majority of churches have not done the work of Advent, including introspection and repentance.
History of Advent
The early church’s adoption of December 25th as the date for Christmas — which is the date of the Roman solstice — supports this argument.
But regardless of its origins, by Medieval times, Christians were expected to fast and abstain on Fridays throughout Advent to highlight its penitential role. This tradition remained in place until 1917, when reforms in the Catholic Church eliminated the requirement for laity. Many Orthodox and Eastern Rite churches retain a Nativity Fast, which begins on November 15th and ends on December 24th.
Advent in the Episcopal Church
Most Episcopal churches mark Advent with traditional readings, pared-down altars and flowers, medieval chants, and solemnity during services.
But beyond that, most Episcopalians view the time as much of the secular world does- a time for drunken holiday parties, shopping, decorating the home, and preparing for the now-dwindling swarm of Christmas and Easter Christians.
Of course, the notion of the Episcopal Church as feckless on matters of faith predates the American Church.
Indeed, the Puritans vehemently objected to the Elizabethan Settlement, including defacing the walls next to the royal arms at Bury St. Edmonds with the words of Revelation 3:15–16:
‘I know thy works, that thou are neither hot nor cold. I would thou were cold or hot. Therefore because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, it will come to pass, I will spew thee out of my mouth.’
Today, in many Episcopal dioceses and parishes, we see the fear of the Puritans confirmed, with liturgy replacing faith.
While there is a role for quiet contemplation, peace, and introspection during Advent, and most churches do well with these, we see little organized effort to deal with the penitential aspect of the season.
Indeed, when was the last time we saw a church actually apologize and make restitution to those it has hurt? Like Tenth Pres? Proclamation? Covenant Nashville? Grace Episcopal? Grace Chapel?
Nor do we see clergy having the integrity to do this. Liam Goligher, Bob Malm, Rob Rogers, Jim Bachmann, Dan McClain — these purported faith leaders like to swagger about. But none of them are actually man enough to own up to their sins and repent publicly.
To be clear, in some cases, the knuckleheads on this list have offered apologies for their misconduct. But an apology is not the same as repentance or restitution, and in most cases, it’s nothing more than an effort to shut down the criticism and move on. In almost every instance, the clergyperson in question has quickly returned to their nasty ways.
As for the laity, forget it. The notion that Susan Elzey, folks at Grace Chapel, parishioners at St. Paul’s Dayton, Alison Campbell, or any of the other losers we’ve identified in this publication would have the integrity to ‘fess up is laughable.
So, in closing, just as there can be no Easter without Lent, there cannot be a Christmastide without a real Advent. We hope that the Episcopal Church and the many other Christian denominations out there will not forget the penitential work that is an inherent part of Advent.