Saint for the day: Peter Canisius ( May 8, 1521 – December 21, 1597)
Song of Songs 2:8 – 14Psalm 33 – Luke 1:39 – 45
“Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield, for in him our hearts rejoice; in his holy name we trust.” (Psalm 33:20-21)
It shouldn’t be a secret that Advent is a time of waiting. But even the calendar tries to cut this down like is happening this year with the 4th Sunday of Advent also being Christmas Eve! We don’t really get a full Advent week because of this.
So we can see that there will always be a tendency to cut out the “waiting” – whether it’s the time we spend in quiet prayer or the shopping centers that begin their decorations even before Halloween!
And as if that’s not bad enough, commercialism takes over and catapults us from Christmas Day immediately into “January White Sales!” I remember when my brother, Lewis, who worked for a local department store in their display department, had to go to work on Christmas day in order to take down all the Christmas stuff and put of the special “sales promotions.”
Fortunately, when I was growing up, my parents (who weren’t really schooled in theology or liturgy) seemed to have acquired a sense that you wait – during Advent – for Christmas and then let the celebration last. In our house, we didn’t even get the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve or the day before. And then it was only put up on Christmas Eve when each of us was able to pick out of the boxes our favorite ornament to hang on the tree. Then we went to bed. Even now, at the age of 76 I still have vivid memories of coming downstairs on Christmas morning (only after my father had lit the tree) and seeing the tree all aglow with lights and ornaments – a dazzle of color and brilliance!
And then it was my mother who celebrated “the twelve days of Christmas ending with a huge family celebration on Epiphany which was usually the day after her birthday!
And, as if that wasn’t enough, my mother wanted to keep the Christmas tree up as long as my father would let her. As I write this reflection I am flooded with wonderful memories of gowning up in a family where my parents – even without knowing much theology or liturgical practices – instilled in me such a wonder of Advent. We always had an Advent Wreath even before they became as popular as they are today. Christmas and – at least – the twelve Days of Christmas were always celebrated in all of my growing up years.
What a shame that our commercial world has turned it all upside down and – in the process – lost most of the meaning. We are supposed to be “counter-cultural people” and we all need to try to let our religious celebrations bring to us the fullness of their meaning. And I know that this isn’t an easy task where we are fighting the commercial, get-all-you-can – as fast as you can – world, “and then, lets move on to the next money-making event!
None of this will change on its own. It will only get worse unless each of us tries to bring Christ back into Christmas. Amen!