Rachel Ringenberg Miller reflects on the Advent season as separate from Christmas, identifying it as a time for actively waiting, together.
Rachel Ringenberg Miller serves as denominational minister for ministerial leadership for Mennonite Church USA. She focuses on engaging conferences and congregations, providing resources and services to meet the diverse demands facing congregations today. She graduated from Goshen (Indiana) College and Eastern Mennonite Seminary, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with an MDiv. She served as associate pastor for Portland (Oregon) Mennonite Church and as pastor of Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas. Rachel attends Eighth Street Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, a Central District Conference congregation.
I’d wager one of the top questions pastors are asked during Advent is this: “When can we start singing Christmas songs in worship?” As a pastor, I was continuously balancing how to handle the requests — ahem, demands — to sing Christmas songs and celebrating the season of Advent. There are four Sundays of Advent, two Sundays of Christmas, with the holiday season concluding with Epiphany. I eventually told the worship planners that, after the second Sunday of Advent, Christmas songs could be included in the order of worship. This didn’t placate or cease the demand for Christmas songs, but people went along with it.
Advent is not Christmas. Advent is intended to be a time of active waiting.