Black Friday, Shop Small, and Cyber Monday are now history. Now, we can all focus on the “work” of Advent, i.e. preparation [or preparing the way]. Preparing the way for what? Finishing our shopping? Sending Christmas cards? Putting up lights and the tree? Sorting through party invitations and deciding which ones to attend? Creating a menu for the Christmas meal?
I have always been one who has believed that it is possible to all these things WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, keeping the spirit of the liturgical season by readying and preparing our hearts to enthusiastically welcome Jesus into our hearts, our Church community, our homes, our families, and our places of work.
Liturgical purists might argue that until Christmas the focus should be on the “purple” of these days and we must do all in our power to RESIST the commercialization of these seasons. Santa should not share the stage with John the Baptist. Christmas music must not be heard until Dec. 24th beginning at 4pm.
Resting the commercialization — YES. Pretending that what is happening in the world around us is not really happening — NO. We CAN prepare well spiritually while at the same time allowing the excitement of this time bring joy to our lives AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS.
A friend of mine sent me a quote from Fr. Andrew Greeley this week that speaks to this point: It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the INCARNATION, of the enfleshing of God — the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people — kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people — no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush. . . .”
As stores began to decorate for Christmas weeks before Thanksgiving and when Black Friday actually began at 4pm on Thanksgiving Thursday …. there are somethings we cannot fight or prevent. BUT THERE IS SO MUCH we can do in the world right around us.
Here are a few quick examples of what I am trying to say. If we put up Christmas decor in our homes … cannot there be, “should” there not be a Advent Wreath in a prominent place? Cannot we be sensible, realistic, and balanced in our shopping and spending …. in other words, spend what we have and NOT paying Christmas bills in February? Cannot we adopt a child or a family by helping them with their shopping or their bills? Where I work, I pulled the name of a child with a Christmas list that had only one item on it …. a new blanket for his bed. WOW … what a sobering reminder of how little I need and the basic wants of others.
Let’s look at the Scripture: From Isaiah [40:1-5, 9-11], we are challenged to “prepare a way for the Lord in the desert” and to “make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God”. Then, in the Gospel [Mark 1:1-8], the message of John the Baptist is very similar – i.e., to “prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight his paths.” Then the kicker, the message to the followers of John, “I have baptized you in water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
So, IF WE make room for God, He will come to us anew … but someohow, there must be a clearing a path for him to come — some quiet for him to speak — some stillness for us to hear — AND EYES THAT SEE HIM IN OUR MIDST. When Jesus came the first time, the world did not stop …. the people did not stop doing what they always did … life went on as usual. When he comes again, anew, is it possible that he will come the same way … in the midst of our busy world and busy lives?? The difference is that we KNOW that we have to keep balance, we need to make sure that there is a spiritual eye and a spiritual ear and a spiritual heart that sees God as he comes today. He was and He is ENFLESHED in our world.
If we sit on a mountaintop or hide in the woods …. or spend 24/7 in church, we may see him … and then maybe we will not. I think there is a good chance that we have to MAKE ROOM …clear a path in the midst of the everyday events in order to see God and to be filled with his spirit.
Again …. tree and decorations AND AN advent wreath
TV … and spiritual reading
Shopping … and a significant contribution to someone in need ….
Attending parties and meals … and a contribution to a food pantry
New clothes …. and bringing “old” but still good clothing to Goodwill or a local clothing closet ….
Our actions will change the world around us … and most of all, allow God to change us. Come, O Come, Emmanuel!