In these weeks before Christmas, the world has something to sell, and that’s fine, because we certainly need to prepare for Christmas and it takes time to figure out what we need to buy (even if it’s supplies for making!).
We could succumb utterly to their ways by going full Christmas already, by decorating and listening to the “holiday soundtrack” that certainly does not contain any actual religious content, but I digress.
As adults we feel that we could do that. It’s tempting. Many of us are tired and demoralized; and the reason Christmas endures, even in our utterly secular and pagan times, is that it offers respite and solace on a natural level (for that is the point — God made man — but don’t forget the rest — that men might become divine. ).
Advent feels like a denial of all that. And because the Church herself has relinquished some of her ancient wisdom, even she seems to acquiesce in putting this season to us as a sort of blank, a waiting period in a dreary bus stop. Who wouldn’t rather just go ahead and, well, not celebrate (Holly Jolly Christmas always seems forced, to me) but… anesthetize?
But Advent is not just four weeks of waiting; it’s not a pinched denial of pleasure (as paltry as the “pleasures” of the commercial season are). And each week is not just like the others.
If we pay close attention, trying to recover what was lost, so much will be gained. The liturgical year actually offers us a chance to enter into God’s will for our spiritual life at every moment and to ponder truths and realities that, if approached analytically, would fill encyclopedias of theology and never be complete. How can we reject that offer? And still claim to want to know His will and to learn more about Him?
During Advent, if we care to hear, the messages offered in the liturgy have to do with salvation history, prophecy, darkness, light, Our Lady in her splendor, the angels in their myriads, the impending Incarnation, the Second Coming… each week has its own texture and emphasis. Each week also has its own feasts to lighten the gloom. St. Nicholas, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, St. Lucy’s Day — each one with its own message of the Kingdom of God. If we are jingle-belling ourselves into jolliness prematurely, we will miss it all.
But most importantly, if we recover all this along with the season’s own music, traditions, and anticipation, our children will benefit from the only “curriculum” that has the power to sustain them as the world tries to steal them away.
The world also effectively deprives us of Christmas, for it folds down its festivities, such as they are, on the 25th of December. Our children will wake up on the 26th to its dryness.
We may feel safe from worldly ways (hubris, perhaps?), but our children have no defenses, other than what we give them — and make no mistake, very few ramparts are built with words and admonishments. They are built with our way of life. Past generations gladly denied themselves and held sloth at bay for the privilege of passing along this patrimony intact.
There must be a few who will stay with the old ways, keeping the “for every time there is a season” verities alive. We said we would, we like the idea in theory, but at the first striking of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” we surrender to the mall mentality, which may I point out is itself on its last legs! Talk about selling your birthright for a mess of pottage!
The liturgical seasons are rich, with richnesses beyond imagining. Only by living them will we begin to uncover these treasures! And our children will accompany us — truly, the consolation of their wonder, of the light in their eyes, will give us more heart than any blandishment the world has to offer.
Editor’s note: See Leila’s posts on her website Like Mother, Like Daughter for information and ideas regarding Advent Wreath traditions, crafting with children and many other ideas on keeping the sacred seasons with our families.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.