Here we stand in the last few moments of the Church year, and already Christmas seems well under way all around us. While I do lament us starting too early, as in right after Halloween, here after Thanksgiving as Advent is about to turn upon us, is this too early too?
Well, if I had to give a quick and dirty response, I’d have to say yes, but I think there is more going on here than meets the eye. I see a couple of issues with us not jumping on the bandwagon now that may just nullify that answer. I have two thoughts.
Firstly, I am sad that our celebration of Christmas is by nature in our current culture, impossible to do in a way that involves the whole community. What I mean is, if we were to celebrate Christmas only during the actual Christmas season, from Christmas day to the Baptism of the Lord, then that celebration would be a family holiday only, not really shared in the wider community.
You see, children usually get the bulk of this time off from school, and because of this, families seem to hole up during this time. Sure, I suppose it is possible for us to completely rework society to be able to make this a more public event, but that kind of change is very slow indeed, and though technically possible, in reality I think we have more chance of sprouting wings.
I love my family, and of course I want to spend my most precious moments with them, but I also want to celebrate God’s Incarnation with everyone around me, my coworkers, the grocer, the mailman, and the random people I meet around town. Christmas has become an expansive holiday, and I think that a very good thing.
So I advocate celebrating with the wider community. If that means we fudge a little and put up the Christmas tree and lights a little early, so be it.
Second, this holiday, more than any other, even Easter, gives us the opportunity to talk about our faith in a very bold way. While we should be unafraid any time of year to proclaim Jesus’ name, there is a solid, built in reason for us to proclaim it in this season. It’s like a yearly anchor that we can call forward to remind everyone in our lives that Jesus is God Himself, and that Him becoming human is something to celebrate. It’s a time to shout with joy and gladness that “Christ our Savior is Born!”
Think about that for a moment. This time of year, you can play religious songs at work and no PC police would dare mess with you. You can hum Silent Night until your vocal cords stop working. You can wear religious ties, and people will love it. You can, and should, wear your faith on your sleeve.
Don’t get me wrong, we should always do this, but this yearly anchor can help us time and time again to remember that we are in the business of evangelization. In this one season our culture, (for now), gives us carte blanche to proclaim our faith, and we should take advantage of it while we can. (I am nearly certain this will not last much longer.)
In my next post, I plan to go over some ways we can do just that.
But before we go there, I do want to make sure that even though we celebrate Christmas with the wider community, it is important that we maintain the spirit of Advent in our homes. This is a time of preparation for Catholics, not a time of jubilation. In my house, we slowly decorate, we may put up the lights outside, put the tree usually doesn’t get up until mid December, and we usually don’t decorate until the last week of Advent.
I guess what I mean is this: In the outside world, celebrate what Christmas is all about. In your heart and home, prepare for the actual event but let Advent reign in your mind, spend your time in preparation. Then when Christmas actually comes, celebrate right through to the new year.
And what ever you do: Don’t take your lights down until Baptism of the Lord!