I have been ready to put up the white flag of surrender for decades now. Christmas is upon us already—at least according to the American consumer mentality—and yet Advent didn’t even begin. Santa was doing his thing in the mall for some time now. In fact, Thanksgiving wasn’t even here yet. We just barely got through Halloween (not to mention the Summer).
Advent. Why bother even to have such a liturgical season? By the time the Christmas season actually begins—according to the Church anyway—people are ready to take down the tree and the decorations. Christmas is over psychologically. We will have been celebrating it for months now. Christmas parties were held. Gifts were purchased, then wrapped. Pollyannas (Secret Santa gifts) were exchanged. Christmas (holiday) shows and concerts were attended. Cards were sent and received. Cookies were baked. Stockings were stuffed. Traditional and not-so-traditional songs of the season have been playing on the radio. Etc., etc., etc.
Then Christmas actually arrives, and it’s all over by the next day. Let’s get to the retail stores to see if there are any after-Christmas bargains. Maybe there are also some end-of-the-season deals online. And don’t forget we still have to return those unwanted gifts.
It is obvious who has won this battle. It wasn’t the Church. Preparation for the Coming of Christ? Yes, we may spot a few of those Keep Christ in Christmas signs occasionally popping up on lawns or displayed on the back of cars. But they really don’t influence the vast majority of people. Perhaps, they may make some of us think a little, but they probably won’t change the behavior of the typical consumer. Christ might have gotten an ever-so-slight bit of attention in between Rudolph, Frosty, Santa, the Grinch, Charlie Brown, Scrooge, Ralphie Parker (from the all-day Christmas marathon “A Christmas Story”) and the host of countless others who are “popular” and “new” and with whom I am currently too out-of-touch to even name.
Dare I mention, the season of Advent begins with the 1st Sunday of Advent—this year on December 1st –and ends on Christmas eve? Christmas time begins with the first Mass of Christmas (Christmas eve) and extends to January 12, 2020—the Baptism of the Lord.
Advent originally had a penitential nature, with a two-fold preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Birth and in anticipation of His Second Coming. There actually was fasting involved at an earlier point in time. The modern Advent wreath that many of us are familiar with in churches and in homes is a rather recent development, being attributed to a 19th century German Protestant pastor.
Christ’s Incarnation and Birth, next to His Death and Resurrection, is the most significant event in salvation history for all humanity. God became one of us. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became a man. The Creator humbles Himself, empties Himself (see Philippians 2: 6-11), to become a creature, a human. He allows Himself to suffer and die. All of this for us.
Jesus’ human beginnings sadly were met with little gratitude—no room in the inn. A stable was provided. There was a feeding trough for animals in which the Son of God could sleep.
Sadly, I do not think the level of gratitude for all He has done has changed much over time. It seems to be greatly overshadowed by the materialism and consumerism that our modern Christmas has become.
Fr. Ed Namiotka