Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and we have only five days more of waiting for the joyous event marking the beginning of the celebration of Christmas. As Fr. Rutler here in NYC at the Church of Our Saviour puts it, on this Sunday "the Church contemplates the fact of Hell in defiance of the pumped-up jollity of early Christmas parties."
In addition to the early Christmas parties, there is also the premature jollity of early Christmas music. If there was anything to be learned while a Presbyterian at the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, it was that Christmas carols--Joy to the World, Angels We Have Heard on High, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, Once in Royal David's City and all the rest--are not to be sung until Christmas Day. While there's no hope for department stores and school concerts featuring Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus, WQXR has, lamentably, been offering Christmas carols all week including Handel's Messiah.
During Advent we are watching and waiting and doing penance in preparation for the birth of the Lord. During Advent we are to sing Advent hymns--On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Watchman Tell Us of the Night, Jesus Comes with Clouds Descending and O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And we are to contemplate not only Hell but Death, Judgment and Heaven as well.