Okay, fine, play Christmas music on the radio and gussy up the shopping centers. The shopping centers are just about the epitome of secularism, while a lot of the music is the secular variety anyhow: “Baby, It’s Cold outside,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Silver Bells,” etc. Sleigh bells ringing, shoppers shopping, snowmen dancing, rocking and rolling with trees, and siiimply haaaaving a really good time. It’s fun stuff, some of it is actually good music, too.
But don’t let it steamroll your Advent, your preparation for the coming of the Christ child. Mary and Joseph are journeying to Bethlehem. So are the Magi. John, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, is 5 months old out in the hill country of Judea.
The beginning of the new liturgical year invites us to consider what the coming of the Son meant. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, so that those who believe might not die but might have eternal life.”
The mystery that God appeared not as a mighty conqueror, descending on a cloud, with thunderbolts in his hands and terrible light flashing from his eyes, smiting all who dare cross him or those who make a big fuss about him. God appeared to us as a the infant child of a peasant woman and poor carpenter in an animal feed bin in a borrowed stable outside a small town of a conquered people on the backwater outskirts of the greatest empire the world had known. How many other babies were born that very same night, in far better conditions?
And how many of them died at the hands of Roman soldiers, on the orders of Herod, as Joseph fled with Mary and the Child to Egypt?
From the first days of His Presence among us, the sin of man has tried to kill the Christ, eventually we succeeded.
But before that Good Friday, thirty-three years intervened, most of them in the anonymity of Nazareth, experiencing what it is to be human, learning to be a carpenter, loving with the heart he received from His loving mother, growing in patience and with gratitude to His heavenly Father for the love He has for man.
Advent is the time to prepare to receive this child in his perfect innocence and unfathomable humility; to learn the patience of Mary and the strength and faith of Joseph.
Advent is the time to rededicate ourselves to living with a spirit of gratitude and patience, of strength and faith, so that we might receive the Christ child and bear him in our hearts to be shared with others.
Perhaps try a simple exercise to help this Advent: when a true Christmas carol comes on the radio, or you run into a Nativity scene that already has the holy family installed, take it as an opportunity to consider what is to come, what we are looking forward to, what shall be our most important gift, why it is that there is no place like home for the holidays, why folks pledge to be home for Christmas, and all the rest.