Good Things Come to Those Who Wait!
My Jewish friends, while assuring me that they very much enjoy the Christmas season, do observe that never do they feel more “other” than during these days. It dawns on them, they continue, that a big chunk of the world is celebrating a feast, and they’re not.
In a way, we Christians also feel somewhat “other” these holy days of Advent. We take Advent seriously, which means we are in a time of preparation for Christmas, a grand feast we really do not begin to celebrate until Christmas Eve.
That is certainly the case in our liturgy, as we see in our churches: purple vestments (a somber, penitential tone, hardly celebratory); no Christmas carols; no trees or poinsettias until much nearer the magic day; no manger scenes yet (or, at least, if there is one, like at the cathedral, the crib is empty).
While this is all true in the liturgy, it is not in our daily lives, and certainly not in our surrounding culture: there, the parties have begun; the carols are heard; the decorations are aglow. I’m not complaining . . . I admit I kind of enjoy it! – – but, in a way, it clashes with Advent, makes it tougher to prepare, and, if we do take Advent seriously, it really makes us the “other.”
In biblical wisdom, and, listening to the wise mother we tenderly call “the Church,” “good things come to those who wait,” “pleasure delayed is pleasure enjoyed,” and “fasting precedes feasting.”
Nostalgia is appropriate this pre-Christmas time; so let me “hearken back.” Growing up, the tree never went up on at home until about December 22nd; Mom’s Christmas cookies could not be eaten until Christmas Eve; our gifts never opened until the morning of the 25th; there were days of “fasting” obliged on certain days of Advent, even Christmas Eve itself; and the Christmas parties – – one for the adults, one for the teenagers – – were at the parish the week after Christmas!
That’s all a lost cause and a tough sell today, I’m afraid. The psychologists call it “immediate gratification”! We want our fun, our pleasure, we want it all now. No waiting, no preparing, no “putting off.”
Well, if that’s the way we prefer it, okay . . . but then, no whining that “Christmas seems to have lost its meaning.”
By the way, talk about feeling “other!” That, for a believer, is not just true before Christmas, in Advent, but after! For us, we’re supposed to celebrate for the twelve days after! The tree stays up, the carols are still sung, the holidays go on, at least until Epiphany, (traditionally, January 6th, now, the Sunday after January 1st, the Feast of Mary, Mother of God.)
That, too, may be a lost cause and a tough sell today, when the trees come down on the 26th, and not one radio station has carols anymore during the post-Christmas days. “We’re tired of Christmas,” the sigh goes. No wonder! The decorations have been up since the day after Halloween!
Sorry to carp! I’m really preaching to myself as well, because I, too, enjoy the Christmas spirit early. (I confess we’re putting up the tree in my house today . . .).
But, please, let’s try to keep Advent as much as we do Christmas.
A blessed Saint Nicholas Day!