Here we go again.
This weekend begins another year in the church calendar. It is time for Advent.
As I've observed before, in American consumerland we are already well into the Christmas season. This is largely because we just can't wait.
I usually spend November trying desperately to fend off Christmas commercials and Christmas music. I love the season. I just don't want to be tired of Sleigh Ride before the leaves even fall off the trees. Last year I heard "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" six times before Thanksgiving, and that was just by going to the grocery store once a week. If we had television I'd have to wear out the batteries on the remote control just hitting the mute button (and hiding my eyes) every time a Christmas commercial came on. I don't want to be so sick of the holiday that by the 25th of December I just desperately want it to go away--yet that seems to be the feeling of people around me. Christmas starts after Halloween and goes on and on and on and on....
Which is the price of gluttony, I suppose. You get tired of it.
I'm not Catholic, but I admire their approach to the season. Advent is a season of waiting. It is not a feast, it is a fast. It is a time of discipline, even a time of scarcity before the feast. Then, at the appointed time, jubilation, celebration, rejoicing, for the entire 12 day period from December 25th to January 6th. If only society knew how to wait....
Salespeople don't want us to wait, obviously. They want us to HURRY HURRY HURRY to get the lastest bargain. And they are listening to the people who want to shop till they drop, not to the ones who won't go to the mall until the middle of December.
The church, by contrast, often seems to want to put the brakes on. They are the most conservative element in society. They shun innovation, serve as a collective for people who oppose change, and look suspiciously on the rights of individuals, which is to say they aren't very progressive. At the same time, they stand for virtue and discipline, continuity and respect. Sometimes the church seems like the weary adult in a world of four-year-olds. And it seems about all they can do sometimes is look on judgmentally as the kids tear into all their Christmas presents in 30 seconds in a frenzy of gratification, and then have a meltdown five minutes later because they are out of stuff to open and they can't handle all the surging emotions.
Pace yourselves. The joy will come. The feast will arrive. Prepare yourselves for it. Don't just revel in every good thing you can find--share it. Live inside it. Don't expect it to make you delirious. Happiness isn't a mind altering drug. It is a state of being.
Does it seem curmudgeonly to all the societal kids? Of course it does. Sometimes it even feels like it. But behind it all is a joy that those kids will never understand. Unless you wait for it. It will come.