Holiday culture wars and consumerism bring more chaos than joy to the world. But there’s hope. The countercultural season of Advent offers a different way to prepare for Christmas. Tish Harrison Warren, former New York Times columnist and author, talks with Amy Julia Becker about:
- How the practices of Advent disarm the culture wars
- Ways that Advent helps us grieve and hope
- Why waiting to celebrate Christmas matters
- PLUS why Tish chose to leave the New York Times
Tish Harrison Warren is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. She is a former New York Times columnist the author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today‘s 2018 Book of the Year) and Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work, or Watch, or Weep (Christianity Today‘s 2022 Book of the Year and the 2022 ECPA Christian Book of the Year). Her latest book is Advent: The Season of Hope. She is a founding member of The Pelican Project and a Senior Fellow with the Trinity Forum. She lives with her husband and three children in Austin, Texas.
On the Podcast:
YouTube Channel: video with closed captions
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Amy Julia (5s):
Have you started shopping for holiday gifts yet? Are you planning parties or maybe you’re just hoping to hide from the festivities? Either way, we have now as a country celebrated Thanksgiving, and for many of us, that means we’re also turning the corner towards Christmas and all that it entails. I’m Amy Julia Becker, and this is Love. is Stronger Than Fear Today. I am talking with my friend Tish Harrison Warren. And Tish has just released a short book about the season of Advent. If you don’t know Tish’s work already, she has two other books, Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night. They are also both wonderful. They won respectively, the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award, which is quite high praise for those books.
Amy Julia (53s):
Tish is also a mom. She’s an Anglican priest, and she is someone who unexpectedly found herself writing a regular column for the New York Times about faith and culture. Today, Tish And I get to talk about why she chose to leave the Times. And we also get to talk about this upcoming season of Advent and why waiting to celebrate and practicing a different way of moving through this time matters. I hope you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did. I am very excited and grateful to be sitting here with Tish Harrison Warren. So welcome Tish. Thank you for being here.
Tish (1m 32s):
Yeah, thanks for having me.
Amy Julia (1m 34s):
So we are going here to talk about a book that you’ve written that has to do with Advent and we’ll get to that in a minute. But I’m guessing that there are people who are listening to this podcast who know you most because you, for, I don’t know how long you can tell us, have had a newsletter with the New York Times. And I’d love to for you to give us a sense of writing the decision to write for the New York Times and just kind of characterize that, like what was it like and then what, why did you decide to stop the newsletter? I’ve loved your final essay about that decision, so maybe we can talk about that a little bit as well.
Amy Julia (2m 19s):
But I’m just wondering if you can Yeah. Ex kind of explain to listeners who you are vis-a-vis this story about the New York Times. The Times.
Tish (2m 28s):
Yeah. You know, no one ever in any interview has ever asked me why I came on with the New York Times. I don’t think so. This is brand new information for the, the public. Yeah, it was a total surprise. I mean, they, Katie Kingsbury, who’s the, the head of the opinion section contacted me really out of the blue in July, 2021. ’cause I was there for two years. So July, 2021. And, you know, she asked if we could talk And I was, I told my husband at the time, like, they probably just want like quotes about faith for a, you know, like a part a multipart se like Peace on faith or Sure.
Tish (3m 26s):
Or this will be a big deal. I thought either this is gonna really impact my life or this is gonna be like nothing. Hmm. I and so she just, she, I had written for the Times twice before and they were thinking of these newsletters. And I came to mind for her and she had read I was doing a, a monthly column for Christianity Today and she read a lot of what I wrote and read some of my books, I guess. And so they just asked me if I would talk to them and consider it. And so that started a series of conversations with the Times and, and I had some thi they had some things they wanted from me.
Tish (4m 15s):
I had some things they wanted from them. And we sort of talked about it and it kind of worked out for both of us. They were happy to give me the things I felt like I needed. Like one of the, one of the things for instance is I just said I love doing, I’m happy to do a newsletter on Faith, but I am not the person if you’re wanting kind of comparative religion, I’m gonna write about Hindu holidays and now I’m gonna write about, you know, Jewish Sabbath rituals. Right? Right. I actually do know a little bit more about Jewish Sabbath rituals or about whatever, you know, I’m gonna kinda observe different kind of movements or even, you know, deconstruction movements or whatever I just said.
Tish (5m 7s):
Like, that’s great, that’s actually great and I’m super for that. I would read it, but I’m not the person to do that. I don’t have the expertise, but I’m also just, I I am an Anglican priest and coming out of this very specific tradition, And I of course what, especially in an with the Times audience, my assumption is gonna be that a lot of my readers don’t share the tradition or that I need, certainly need to use accessible terms. Right. But also just not to make presumptions that we’re starting always in the seeing the world the same way, but that we could still have a conversation about that. And, but that in that conversation, I’m gonna be coming from a very specific place with a, with specific lenses and I’m, and, and that, so basically I just said, I’m gonna have to be me, like fully me in that.
Tish (6m 4s):
And they were like, that’s great. We, that’s what we want. And And I. And then I had some kind of more logistic kind of things that I needed and they were great about that. And then the things they wanted also seemed great. And so over the course of maybe a month we talked and then they hired me and it went fast. I mean, once I think they hired me and it was like a week two, no, maybe two weeks later I did my first piece. And then it was every week, especially that first year, I, I did 48 pieces in 52 weeks. Yeah. That’s amazing.
Tish (6m 43s):
So it was a lot. And then, and then I was stayed on for another year. And so it was a really good experience. I’m still really proud of the times. Like I just feel like my experience, And I can’t speak for everyone’s experience there, but mine was good. And it felt like they never muzzled me in terms of faith. They never said like, can you be less Christian and fab? They put me up to some pieces that were really controversial that I don’t know if I would’ve done on my own, you know, that Oh, interesting. Yeah. But like asking for my perspective, you know, saying like, we know you bring a different perspective to this, we’d really like to hear it.
Tish (7m 24s):
Would you be willing to do that? So I think they’re really seeking to, to be a place of true like old school liberalism in the sense of we can have many voices at the table and we can talk. That was my experience anyway. So I’m still in great terms with the times I hope to write for them. Again, leaving may not be, I, I don’t, I don’t think at this point that it’s like I’ll never write for the times ever again. Right. I, but I, it was a combination of it. There’s lots of things that go into a decision to step away from something. And especially something like this, which is like, was a huge honor In many ways it’s the top of my career.
Tish (8m 11s):
Like, there’s not gonna be another, it’s the most red paper in the entire planet. Yeah. So no one else is gonna ask me to write on faith, you know, can you come write about, you know, God Yeah. For the most red paper in the world, this is, is probably it’s not gonna happen again. But, but I think it was a combination of things. One, as I told you before, that I, writing weekly, just that pace made it very difficult to do anything else. And I in this season of my life with, I still have a three-year-old. And, and so I, And I mean I have a 13 year old, 10 year old and three year old.
Tish (8m 51s):
So it was alive And I want to return to books. I mean, I, I had book ideas I wanted to do. Yeah. And I just really couldn’t, it was difficult for me to write for the Times and a book Partly ’cause of time, but also because of just my brain having to switch between material like that. Like yeah. I’m, I’m realizing there’s only so many words that I can write in a week. And that’s, in a way
Amy Julia (9m 21s):
That’s way you structure those words. Like, I just remember, I was mentioning this to you earlier too, but I blogged for Christianity Today for a while, and everything I wrote, there was supposed to be 800 to 1200 words. And so I started to only be able to write any idea in 800, 1200
Tish (9m 37s):
Parts in Yes. And
Amy Julia (9m 38s):
Tish (9m 38s):
Amy Julia (9m 39s):
To be able to like stretch that out again, And I And I had to walk away Yep. In order to work on another book.
Tish (9m 46s):
That makes complete sense. I totally identify with that. Yeah. I, because you begin, you’re, so, there’s some great things just, if we wanna just talk shop as writers, I can do this all day long. But there’s some great things. The Times I really came into the Times as a, as a writing perfectionist, I I, I was the one who sweated over every Preposition that I used. You know, I, I really wanted the words to be like perfect quote unquote perfect. Like, and so I, you know, was the person with any kind of piece in, in like a magazine or in a book certainly that like, you would have to pry the manuscript like from my fingers, you know, I just wanted to keep editing and editing and editing until I just wanted, I, and, and the times just rids you of any perfectionism because it just has to get out.
Tish (10m 45s):
And so, and the whole world notices. There’s a, there’s a Twitter site that’s just devoted to catching typos or grammatical errors in the time. So anytime I, you know, I’m not on Twitter anymore, so I didn’t, I didn’t see it. I, I got off two years ago when I was in, when I was working at the Times. But, but every week it would just be anything that, you know, and, and especially with the weekly rhythm, it, you just have to get it out. And so it changes the way you you write, which in some ways will be really good. But also what you were saying is it does make you think in kind of smaller bites.
Tish (11m 27s):
Yeah. And yeah. And then on, on top of that, I also just think, yeah, it, I, I only can use that creative space in my brain so much. Right. It just feels like it’s a button I push And I don’t know. I mean, somewhere between a thousand to 2000 words I just hit, I hit my limit. And so if, if, you know, know 1500 of those are going to the times, like, it would just be really hard to eat out a book otherwise. And, and what people don’t realize is if, if you’re putting, you know, 800 to 1200 words on the page that you, you have to do way more research than 800 to 1200 words.
Tish (12m 12s):
Like there’s a lot that does, doesn’t get in because you can’t write about everything every time. And so, you know, even if I could write that in a, in two days, I need to spend, you know, the rest of the week figuring out what I’m writing about next week. And a lot of times it was things I was researching and learning and people I was talking to or interviews I was doing things that it takes a lot to get to the 800 to 1500 words that we would do. And so, yeah. So some of it was just sheer time. The other part though, that I kind of wrote about is, I think I began, how gonna say this?
Tish (12m 57s):
Because, because I, I loved what I was doing. And, I, And, I. I mean, honestly, it’s one of the great honors of my life that I got to do that And I would love to do something similar again in the future. But I think writing, i writing about God is particularly controversial. So I was a lightning rod Mm. Writing about God, particularly with the belief I i trying to be orthodox, I see orthodoxy more as a goal than a description. So I don’t really say that I am Orthodox, but I’m, that’s kinda my what I’m hoping. Hmm. And so, so particularly because of that with the times, you know what, it’s, it’s easier to write for the times or for CT or to any audience who you naturally agree with everything.
Tish (13m 52s):
Yeah. Because you, you don’t have to write as well if you share all the same assumptions and priors as your readership. Yeah. And so if you, it actually takes a lot more from someone to kind of build a bridge. And this is not to say that all my readers disagreed with me. I actually had lots of letters from people who do, and also just great things. Like I had a lot of Jewish rabbis that read my stuff and would respond. So we obviously don’t agree on everything But there. They, there was a lot of, there was enough of kind of overlap that we could talk about something like, you know, Sabbath keeping or Right.
Tish (14m 33s):
Technology and the role of technology or what it means to be a person of faith and care about the environment. But some of the, some of the ones that particularly pushed any, I, I’m progressive enough that I, I had plenty of progressive pieces, but anything that pushed against the left in any way at the Times Yeah. Always ended up costing a lot in terms of just a, it’s gonna be, I mean, I just knew, I, I would let my assistant know because it would just be a week. It’s gonna be a bad week. Right. Like, it’s just gonna be a week with a lot of pushback. And we knew that and we made those choices anyway. Yeah. And, I would do that again. But I think, I think that had a cost.
Tish (15m 17s):
But, but, but specifically what I mean is engaging in, because sure it had a cost, it wasn’t fun, but that’s not a reason to leave. Like, honestly, that doesn’t, it, it doesn’t bother me. I think that’s just part of writing in public. But I think all controversy about God being such a part of your life ends up sometimes making it more difficult to actually know and interact with God. And so I was getting to the point where it felt like, particularly because I think that that being on such a national level pulled me out of local Right.
Tish (15m 60s):
My local church in some ways. I literally, like, I was still very involved in my local church, but I couldn’t for instance, preach just because I, it was too much to write a sermon and write this at the same time. Yeah. So it started to be that it felt like what I was writing about with God and especially what I write about, which is, you know, often really spiritual practices, pretty, pretty local, pretty daily, pretty Ordinary. I was writing a lot about the local church. Hmm. I just began to feel like it was becoming all theoretical. Like it was something in my life that I was sort of, that I believe in proclaim, but wasn’t practicing and living.
Tish (16m 41s):
Hmm. And so I wanted in a way to rediscover kind of And I don’t actually totally even remember my last, my last piece now. ’cause it’s been a while. And that’s one of the funny things about writing and 800 to 1500 as people would be like, I left your piece two weeks ago. And I would be like, I have no, I don’t even remember what that is. Right. I dunno what that was because I’m already working on the ne you know, I’m already working on my next piece. So, but I, but I remember talking about that, that sometimes God, the abstraction of God actually, and debating the abstraction of God can keep us from engaging in things that actually we encounter God at like Sunday worship, like dropping off food at a bereaved friend’s house.
Tish (17m 34s):
Right. You know, like sitting down with my kids and having a conversation about, you know, faith or about their day or about whatever And I think being that the sort of abstraction of God at a national level was keeping me from some of these things that I really wanted to do on a pastoral local church, local community, even like in my home kind of level. Right. And. so it felt like I just didn’t ever wanna get to the point where God was a thing that was part of my brand that I
Amy Julia (18m 12s):
Tish (18m 12s):
Wow. That I debated with other people who, who had God or anti-God as part of their brand. And I, I didn’t want to end up on the other side of this having, you know, really, really great things to say in the Times about God, but not really knowing God or my neighbors. And so, so that, that’s what, that was kind of what was behind that.
Amy Julia (18m 40s):
Well, thank you for sharing that story with us. And I, I really appreciate and can relate. I think the other thing that comes to mind to me is the, at least for me, when I am so tethered to the immediate, like I have to produce something now and it’s supposed to be relevant to this moment, it also can take me out of the kind of timeless truths. A aspect Yeah. Of, of faith, which, and actually the timeless truths, it doesn’t mean they’re not tethered to our local experience, but they’re not as tethered to like the news cycle. Right. Like, so That’s right. And, I’m totally thinking actually about this book on Advent as I say that because somehow in the midst of what you were doing at the Times, you,
Tish (19m 26s):
That was a good transition. Well,
Amy Julia (19m 27s):
Thank you. I was thinking about it as you were talking. I was like, oh gosh, this is related. But, so I don’t know how you wrote the Advent book while you were in the midst of that, because you must have, ’cause it’s here on my desk. But I am thinking about that sense of like, going into a space of timeless truths, like writing about an aspect of the Christian calendar that has been around for centuries if not longer. And that really is in fact meant to kind of draw us out of the, you know, place of the immediate, not just the news cycle, but the, like, you know, Santa Claus and Twinkly lights, you know. And so I’m, I’m curious about, well, what do I wanna ask you?
Amy Julia (20m 10s):
I I guess for any, as we make this transition towards a book about Advent, why don’t we start with like, what is Advent and also like Yeah. How is it different than like our, our culture’s preparation for Christmas? Right? Yeah. Let’s start there. Yeah.
Tish (20m 27s):
Okay. Well, yeah. So Advent is the first season in the Christian calendar. It starts off the Christian calendar and it is a time of waiting that comes before Christmas, which is the, you know, next season. So it’s a time of waiting and preparation for that. But Advent historically is far less about Christmas and far more about waiting on the eschaton, the return of Jesus, the coming king. And so, and Advent also has a sense of waiting on Christ to come into the brokenness and pain of our lives that Jesus didn’t just come 2000 years ago.
Tish (21m 19s):
But Jesus, I mean, we need Jesus to come now into the brokenness, into our lives. And, and we look forward to, you know, Jesus setting all things right at the, so there’s really, I began the book talking about the three comings, Advent means coming of Advent. And so, and like brass tacks very practical. It’s begins four Sundays before Christmas. And it’s those four weeks leading up to Christmas that, I mean, it’s some, it, depending on what day Christmas falls, it’s usually more than just four weeks.
Tish (21m 58s):
Right. But it’s, but it, it’s the four Sundays before Christmas and the weeks that follow them. So I wouldn’t have written a book on Advent. I mean, this is a really different project than I’ve done because the other books were the other Liturgy, the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night. I’m, I’m not talking about the My kids’ book here. Okay. Yeah. But Liturgy, the one and Prayer in the Night were very much books that were self-generated. They were sort of my, I mean, I hope they were spirit generated with me. Right. But they were, but they were my idea. I mean, they came, it was just sort of my own kind of work. This was project was a project with six other people that Issa McCauley was the series editor for.
Tish (22m 47s):
And where we each took a season of the church calendar and you can buy them separate or you can, I mean, theoretically and hopefully churches and small groups can buy them together and read them together and it would cover a year. Right. And so it was more of like, I, I don’t, I would’ve probably never just on my own been like, I’m gonna write a book about Advent. Yeah. So it was more of assigned to me. I mean, he actually called and said, do you want lint or Advent And? I said, I’ll take either one. But I think I, I like Advent more. I mean, it’s less depressing than lint. Yeah. And so, although it is still depressing, but less than lint and so, so, so yeah, that’s, that it was, it, that’s how I sort of came to it.
Tish (23m 36s):
And in terms of how it’s different from Christmas, I think this is so interesting because I think I would say as I told people that I’m writing and my husband wrote this with me, that’s by the way, how I did this and also the times. Okay. I wrote, there you go. I wrote, I wrote this book, but I did not write it alone. He helped a lot, especially in the research, the historical research of Advent. So the, when we would talk about writing this book, people almost always brought up Christmas, like the tension of Christmas. Yeah. I think people feel that a lot. Yeah. With Advent of, so the first question was always like, almost in a pretty prescriptive way.
Tish (24m 23s):
Like, tell me when I could start listening to Christmas music. Like, tell me when to decorate the tree. Tell me when to put, pull out the sweaters. Like, it was like very, and which is interesting ’cause I do think in America, especially Advent is so counter-cultural. Like we start Christmas so early here
Amy Julia (24m 46s):
In like November. I know it’s if Yeah. Not before, but Yeah.
Tish (24m 50s):
Yeah. And yeah, usually in October, right? It’s starting now. I mean if the, if at least in Austin, you know Yeah. I’m thinking of like new in October, it’s still like I’m
Amy Julia (25m 0s):
Thinking of the move from Halloween to Santa Claus. Like, so I’m really thinking of like November 1st Yeah. Is when CVS switches it out.
Tish (25m 7s):
That’s true time. Yeah. So November 1st at a lot of places there’s, at the World Market by May House, it’s like, ha it becomes half Halloween and a half. Okay. Christmas around. But, which is very funny in Austin ’cause it’s like, it’s like 90 degrees, right? It’s so hot sometimes in October
Amy Julia (25m 25s):
Here ready for the train.
Tish (25m 29s):
But so seasons seasons mean nothing here anyway. But I think, yeah. So I do think it, it’s interesting because I feel like not in practice, I think in practice most people still just love Christmas and, and the hope it represents. But, but in media and maybe a little, maybe a little in practice in parts of the church, Christmas has gotten a little bit eaten by the culture wars in the sense of, you know, the Merry Christmas versus happy holidays. Yeah. And you need to say Merry Christmas and not happy holidays.
Tish (26m 9s):
And it’s such a dumb, I mean, it’s just could not be a more useless and stupid thing to talk about. But, but what’s funny, so the countercultural nature of Christmas has been marked by whether or not you say Christmas or holidays. Right. I guess just, again, holidays is from the word holy days. Right. So it’s, it’s a really dumb right. Debate. But, and, but I actually think Advent is far more, I I think that is not, here’s what I’m saying, that kind of debate on, you know, conservatives against the culture with Christmas is not actually countercultural, it’s just grumpy for no reason.
Tish (27m 1s):
It’s just, it’s just kind of trying to be transgressive without actually it costing you anything in your life. But Advent is actually in itself pretty transgressive the notion that before we celebrate, we stop to grieve before we remember Christ coming, we remember the darkness in the world. Why we need Christ to come, what world, what not just that we theoretically need Christ to come, but what actual things in our actual world can we not solve on our own, you know?
Tish (27m 41s):
Yeah. We are pretty kind of, we are pretty self-sufficient on our own. I think Dorothy Day, I could be misquoting day, but I think it was day that said, like, live in such a way that your life doesn’t make sense if Jesus isn’t risen from the dead. Right. Right, right. And, I think for most of us, even most Christians live, you know, we seek pretty good normal American lives. Right. Where we don’t really rely on God, but we need ’em to show up. You know, when things get bad as they do in all of our lives, you know, when we face death or, or pain or it’s kind of sprinkled on our life as a, as an identity maker.
Tish (28m 27s):
You know, that’s why these people, you know, fight. But Christmas is, that’s part of their, i this is part of their identity is they’re the ones kind of standing up for Christ for Christmas. But in, in actuality, we need, we need to encounter and look at and face the places our life that are really unsolvable unless God intervenes, which is what Christmas is all about. Like, there was no solution until God surprised the world with a solution. Hmm. And so I think Advent makes space to get to the place where we say, yeah, we’re, we are desperate.
Tish (29m 9s):
We are desperate without you, which is a very different posture than early December. Sorry, in most of, at least in the retail space in early December. Totally.
Amy Julia (29m 23s):
Yeah. I’m thinking about for a long time I like very much lived in that tension of what I called eventually started calling Christian Christmas and American Christmas. And with Advent being a part of Christian Christmas, And, I do still feel like I kind of toggle back and forth between the two because of trying Yeah. To figure out how not to be just like a grumpy person, right. In December. And yet how also to recognize that there’s a purpose in the waiting and in the sense of like longing. And as you’ve been talking about darkness, And, I’m thinking about, there are two places in the book that are, could seem contradictory, although they’re actually in some ways talking about the same thing. One is about the idea of emptiness being filled at Christmas.
Amy Julia (30m 8s):
So like you, this is a quote, empty skies are suddenly full of angels, empty mangers are filled with the light of the world. And the significance of like allowing that emptiness to be present in our own experience in some ways, like as we lead into Christmas. But then you also, I loved this image you wrote about Advent at the time of being pregnant with the things of God. Yeah. So that sense of like, we’re waiting, but there’s something that is like growing and feeling us up in that waiting time. And I. Don’t know. I just really loved that both of those, the idea of like an emptiness that gets filled, but also of of pregnancy where it’s like at first small and hidden, but over time becomes this new life that is really growing and eventually be is born.
Amy Julia (30m 54s):
So how to do that in without being grumpy and obnoxious in the midst of our culture. I’m not sure. Yeah. And, I am curious whether you have any like particular practices that you would like kind of recommend for, you know, people who are going into this season and Yeah. Want to have some I think recognition of that.
Tish (31m 18s):
I think Yeah. Well first of all, I think the attempt is part of the practice of naming exactly what you’re saying. I mean, I talk ’em in the book about the Advent is in some ways is like training wheels for all of Christian discipleship in the sense that it is countercultural, but in a very mellow kind of way. Like, I mean, what I mean is like I think advent’s a very good thing to practice, but it’s far easier than say, selling all your possessions and giving them to the needy. Right. Right, right. Like, like Jesus said to the rich young ruler. Right. So it, but it is this like tiny countercultural thing, which Christians, so it reminds us that Christians are countercultural.
Tish (32m 2s):
That that the distinction you make between American Christmas and Christian Christmas is So great. Because it reminds us that there is, they’re not the same. Right. That there is a distinction between being an American citizen and a citizen of the kingdom of heaven in lots and lots of ways in the ways we use our money, the ways we use our time, the way we talk about politics, the way we use our bodies, the way we think about marriage, the way we think about our neighbors. The there should be a distinction or our work, or you could go on and on the environment that I think there’s a distinction between America and Yeah. And Christianity. Yeah. And the American Right.
Tish (32m 42s):
In Christianity and the American left in Christianity like that, that we should constantly sort of be making these distinctions. So it reminds us of that. But then the question is how do we enter into that as a, as a alien, as a stranger, as a visitor, as the scriptures would say, and not, and be joyful in the midst of that. Right. Not be grumpy in the midst of that, but be people of joy that are, that might feel exile in some ways as Christians, but that are, are seeing Right. That are, that are worshiping, that are living our lives with joy. Because, because heaven and earth are full of God’s glory, all of it, right?
Tish (33m 26s):
Yeah. Including America. Hmm. So, so I think that like, like in Advent is like the baby food of all of those concepts. And that it’s a way to try to practice being countercultural with full of joy in a way that is, that is just, it’s just sort of training wheels. It just kind of gets us used to the, the much bigger ways that we will be asked to be countercultural people that are still people of joy and not people of, you know, like aggression hatefulness to our neighbor resentment, you know, that don’t engage in practices of resentment to our neighbor.
Tish (34m 10s):
So that’s like the general thing is I think actually striving the, the 10 living in the tension that you’re describing with joy and faithfulness is the tension of our whole, whole life. Mm. And so I think advent’s really great in a way to practice that as a community and even talk through that as a community, some really basic practices. Yeah. I mean, one of them that I bring up in the book is fasting Prayer and giving. I just feel like the way the church has always from the beginning of Advent practiced Advent is fasting Prayer and giving. Mm.
Tish (34m 49s):
So that might, and you think in some ways that’s very hard to do during Christmas because, because it’s, it’s a time of indulgence. And or not during Christmas because that, but I mean, during American during December, Christmas, December, yeah. American that, but I also think you can take that, that can look really different. So you can even take maybe one day a week and fast, or you can fast from certain things like social media or, and taking up those practices are a way that nobody even has to know you’re doing it.
Tish (35m 33s):
Right. Yeah. Like, in fact, Jesus says to, you know, often keep that to yourself so you can still take those up joyfully. And then, you know, if you have a Christmas party for your office on Friday night, right. Like, maybe that’s not the day to do it. Yeah, yeah. Like fa you know, fast the rest of the week and then you’ll really, really enjoy that food at the Christmas party. Yeah. But also giving, I mean, you just, this is a, a thing that our culture sort of does kind of get, like be partly ’cause the tax cycle people give more generously at the end of the year. But it is a time because we are giving gifts to other people that instead of just focusing on material things, to actually try to, to give sacrificially to, to, to, to try to loose the chains of injustice and, and care for the poor as the, as the scriptures always, always call like that, that is what a true fast is.
Tish (36m 38s):
So fasting, especially the prophets always remind us fasting is not enough in it itself. The ideas in our, when we deprive ourselves of things that are good, like food or entertainment or the things we spend our life on that are not bad things, but we remember and are in solidarity with folks that do not have those things as readily. And so if you just take up those practices, those are some really, those are some pretty powerful ways to be countercultural. There’s smaller things, right? Like do, like for instance, this, I don’t even put this in the book because I worry, I don’t want this to be something that people think, oh, this is the way I have to do Advent.
Tish (37m 27s):
But our family, and maybe I should have put this in the book, I don’t know, but our family buys a Christmas tree because we’ve realized if you wait until Christmas, one Christmas day, there are no Christmas trees left. And they’re sad, but we buy them, we, we tend to put lights, we put lights on them to, and then, which may or may not be avid, but you know, you’re right’s a time of darkness. We put lights, but we don’t decorate the tree. Mm. So all of our tree, well all of the ornaments, which, you know, we ev like every family have ornaments we’ve used every year.
Tish (38m 8s):
Right. And other specialists, all of that we do together on Christmas Eve. Hmm. And then we leave it up the tree all 12 days of Christmas. Right. I mean, I would also say like, please, please, if you’re experimenting with Advent, right? If you’re holding off on some of the Christmas celebration, which it does take, I mean, we hold off on the Christmas celebrations, we start preparing. So kind of closer to Christmas you’ll start seeing more around our house, but we do it slowly. So it really, we don’t have all of the Christmas stuff until Christmas Eve. But if you do that, please, please, please really celebrate for the full 12 days of Christmas.
Tish (38m 49s):
Right. Because otherwise you just feel kind of like, ah, I had to, I, I grieved, I mourned, I fasted, I waited, I prayed, and then it was Dover in one day, which is just the saddest. Right. And so the intensity of our celebration needs to match the intensity of our preparation. And so what I’m not saying is we have too much celebration in America. We really need to be very dour. Right. And focus on grief. I think that for my family, and this is absolutely true, the practice of Advent has made us where when we get to Christmas, we’re really eager to celebrate and we celebrate for all 12 days.
Tish (39m 34s):
And it doesn’t, it, it, we don’t feel quite as, we don’t feel glutted in the way that I think I, I never celebrated admin growing up. Hmm. And by the time you get kind of too around like December 30th, you’re just done. You’re so over sugared, over celebrated over, you know, it’s, and you hadn’t taken. And sometimes at the worst, especially in hard years or times when you’re really grieving hard things, this is I think partly why we get kind of the, the holiday blues that’s like a, a real psychological thing Right.
Tish (40m 14s):
That is even recognized clinically that there, you know, there’s more suicides over the holidays. There’s that is, that’s not, that’s bigger than holiday blues. That’s depression. But depression increases over the holidays. But even non drastic kind of things, like just people struggle more over holidays. And, I think that’s partly because we’re, people are feeling pushed into merriment when they haven’t really been given space and time to be really honest about the ways they’re not married and that they are grieving and that the world is really broken and that their lives are broken.
Tish (40m 55s):
Right. So I feel like even just making space for that has allowed us to be really intentional about we’ve named the darkness and now we’re gonna really name hope and we’re gonna name light and we’re gonna name the, the glory of Emmanuel, of God with us coming to be, you know, that God is actually with us because Jesus came, Jesus does still come into our lives and Jesus is coming. Mm. But that there’s some that actually being kind of, kind of holding off on some of that celebration in quote unquote American Christmas has allowed us to enter the actual Christian season of Christmas much more joyfully.
Tish (41m 41s):
And, and like with, you know, we’re happy to see it go almost two weeks, you know? Right. 12 days. And then you get a epiphany, which is, so you have 13 days of celebration. And so I’m all for making that really and make, make Christmas equal in celebration to your holding off in Advent. Hmm.
Amy Julia (42m 3s):
Thank you so much for all of that. Just the And I. I thought as we like come to the end of talking about Advent, I wanted to just read this. It’s a quotation from the conclusion of the book, but I don’t think I’m like giving too much away to read it.
Tish (42m 18s):
Spoiler alert. That’s alright. It’s just 2000, it’s thousands of years old. This practice,
Amy Julia (42m 25s):
We can’t tell too much. But I, I I think this just relates to what you’ve been saying, And, I just appreciated these words so much. So Advent is training in hope because this season tells us that when things lie fallow, they do not lie in waste. Things that seem dormant are not dead and times of waiting are not without meaning, purpose or design. God is working sometimes almost imperceptibly deep beneath the surface of time. Waiting is part of his redemption. It is part of his gift to us. It is part of his grace. And, I think even of your point that like people feel more depressed sometimes during the holidays, And, I wonder whether our refusal to acknowledge the darkness and to even have this posture of waiting and saying, I’m gonna hold on to hope that the things that are dormant are not dead.
Amy Julia (43m 21s):
Whether that even contributes to that sense of like loneliness or despair and whether Advent might, even though it seems almost counterintuitive, might be the proper way to walk from darkness to light, from despair to joy, which really is given to us in, in this actual season of Christmas. So anyway, those are just some of the thoughts that that prompted for me. And I’m just really grateful for you taking the time to give us an a bit of an overview. People obviously should get this book and it’s short. You will have time, you know, even if you only read a little bit over the course of this Advent season. But it’s got a lot of really beautiful wisdom within it.
Amy Julia (44m 3s):
So thank you Tish for that.
Tish (44m 5s):
Yeah, thank you.
Amy Julia (44m 10s):
Thanks as always for listening to this episode of Love is Stronger Than Fear. Please do check out the show notes if you want more information about Tish and all the things we talked about here in this episode. I now would like to offer a shameless sales plug for myself and for Dish, because you might be thinking about gifts to give during this holiday season. And I’ve got some ideas for you. Books are fantastic, inexpensive, thoughtful, long lasting gifts. And guess what? There are lots of them out there, some of them written by me, and then also these other ones in all seriousness written by Tisch, which would be really great gifts. They are timeless gems.
Amy Julia (44m 51s):
I hope the same is true of my books. And so if you are looking for just the right gift for the reflective spiritual people on your list, I would love to point you towards Liturgy of the Ordinary prayers in the night. You could also look at To Be, Made Well, or any of my other books. So you know, go buy books. We are big fans of that around here. I also wanted to let you know that in keeping with my own need for seasons in which I slow down a little bit, I’m gonna take a break from the Podcast for a bit. I will be back in February with a series of new episodes, which means actually that I get to read some awesome books over the next couple of months and interview some wonderful writers about those books.
Amy Julia (45m 38s):
But my point in telling you this is don’t expect another episode for a little while. And if you’re not already of subscriber, please do go and subscribe now so that when I return in February, it will pop up in your podcast feed. As I do come to the conclusion finally of this episode, I wanna thank Jake Hanson for editing the Podcast and thank Amber Bii, my social media coordinator for making everything happen. And I. Wanna thank you for being here and for listening and for the beautiful words of feedback that you often offer to me. Finally, as you go into your day, Today I Hope you’ll carry with you the peace that comes from believing that love is Stronger Than fear.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- To Be Made Well: An Invitation to Wholeness, Healing, and Hope
- S7 E1 | The Hope and Hurt of Being Black in America with Esau McCaulley
- S6 E8 | Christmas, When Church Lets You Down with Bekah McNeel
If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to receive regular updates and news. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads, and you can subscribe to my Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast on your favorite podcast platforms.