John Lennon, “Happy Christmas,” and the War against Advent

via Postbourgie, where Brokey McPoverty posted a Humpday Hate against the John Lennon song, “Happy Christmas” and other sad Christmas songs:

“Y’know?  Listening to this song, I get the sneaking suspicion that John Lennon isn’t really all that excited about war being over.  Or that war just really isn’t over.  He clearly went to the Stevie Wonder School of Christmas Song Writing and got an A in reminding everybody of how much things really suck.  Looking at the title, you expect some kind of joy, right?  And I guess he tries, for what it’s worth.  He does sing, ‘a very merry Christmas/and a happy new year/let’s hope it’s a good one’ and all that.  But, like: And so this is Christmas/ For weak and for strong/For rich and the poor ones/The world is so wrong.”

Since this is the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s assassination (man, has it been that long? – my senior class at Hartford High School — the one in Vermont — dedicated our yearbook to Lennon, so officially I’m an old fart), I’m sticking  up for him and pointing out to fellow members of Christian faith traditions that this is the season of Advent, not Christmas.  Last Sunday, we at Trinity Episcopal Church in Collinsville had guest lay preacher Donald V. Romanik, President of Episcopal Church Foundation, remind us what Advent is all about:

“OK, I really like the image of the Peaceable Kingdom, although I’m not too crazy about playing with snakes. Also, as a Gentile, I warmly embrace Paul’s pronouncement that although a descendant of Jesse and David himself, Jesus came to save me as well.

Why not just leave it at that.  Why do we have to even bother with that eccentric, dirty, obnoxious and in-your-face fanatic called John-the Baptist? Isn’t he just the skunk at the garden party, the loud intoxicated uncle at dinner or the smelly homeless person on the park bench?  While I may be ready to confront John the Baptist in January when we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus during Epiphany, the last thing I need during this season of joy and cheer is to be insulted by a crazy man who dresses in camel’s hair and eats wild locusts and honey.

I’m afraid, however, that rather than the Peaceable Kingdom., the real message of Advent is that of John the Baptist. Before we can hear the songs of the angels about peace on earth and good well to all of humankind, we need to be told that sometimes we are indeed a brood a vipers and we have to repent. John the Baptist and the apocalyptic images of the end of time are not there to scare us but they are meant to shake us up and provide us with an incredible sense of urgency.”

{you can read the full sermon here}

Okay, Lennon wasn’t John the Baptist obviously — but certainly his song is appropriate to a season that is supposed to remind us of the inconvenient fact that not everyone is enjoying a holly jolly you know what.  So, Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, folks.  Before we Christians have a Happy Christmas, we need to ponder the mystery of  Advent:

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you! Yes, let us please put the Advent back in Advent. I belonged to the Episcopal church for many years, and Advent was one of my favorites times of the liturgical calendar. And the Christmas decorations aren’t supposed to go up until Christmas Eve day, darn it!

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