Second Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2020
In order to enjoy a little bit of relief from the overwhelming stress of the past several months, this year, many folks put up their Christmas trees even before Thanksgiving. Retailers report that holiday decorations have been selling almost as quickly as paper products! That tells us something! People are yearning for joy, and, apparently, are finding it in colored lights. They have rushed the season, eager to push back against the anxiety from which many suffer.
There is no shortage of advice as to how we can find relief through massive doses of “Christmas spirit” without the customary parties and other social activities. Lots of psychologists, counselors, and social workers have weighed in on TV, in magazines, and through social media with a variety of suggestions intended to “make the season bright.”
In a sense, they are heeding the message of the true Advent specialist…John the Baptist. They are proposing various ways to PREPARE. However, what they offer is not a straight path but an expressway that carries those who enter it on a fast track through time. The downside is that, upon exiting, those who take this route will find themselves back in a dark neighborhood of anxiety, stress, and boredom. Even worse, the expressway through Advent bypasses the extraordinary spiritual scenery of this season of joy and hope.
That being said, rather than simply dismissing these various secular suggestions, I wonder if we can convert them, ”baptize” them, so to speak. For example, the recommendation common among all experts is to shop and ship early. This is certainly compatible with our Second Reading which counsels against “delay.” Although the passage stresses God’s patience with human frailty, still, we are reminded that our time in this world is fleeting. Procrastination often leads to frantic, last-minute rushing around that can result in disappointment. If we take full advantage of the four weeks of the Advent Season, then we will feel much more PREPARED to welcome Christ at Christmas.
A suggestion that will serve folks in places like Florida and California better than northerners is to make an extra effort to decorate the outside of our homes, so that we can gather and celebrate safely and festively out of doors. This might be a suggestion that is a little more difficult to “convert.”
Rather than directing our attention to what is outside, our Advent expert…John the Baptist…sends us to our interior selves. Christians do their most satisfying rejoicing quietly and calmly and privately. We first prepare our hearts through repentance and then decorate with faithful hope and joyful expectation. It is within us that we welcome and celebrate Christ in the most meaningful and satisfying way.
This year, public health and safety makes it necessary to forego many traditions that have become “sacred.” The proposed solution is to prioritize, and to make the most of ways we can mark the holiday season without fear of becoming infected with the virus.
By way of example, Advent calendars are being touted as a way of building and maintaining the holiday spirit as the big day approaches. The concept involves concealing a daily treat, suggestion for a safe family activity, or a recipe, behind each little door. Some stores are even featuring wine Advent calendars with a different sampling for each day of Advent.
This suggestion is very much the opposite of what was previously suggested. Rather than “baptizing” what is secular, what we see here is an effort to make the sacred profane.
Christians use Advent calendars as a means of moving deeper into the sacred mystery of the Incarnation. Each day, a passage from Scripture is revealed, inspiring us to look inward and prepare to celebrate in the most meaningful way God’s Self-revelation through the birth of Jesus Christ.
So then, as we enter this second week of the Advent Season, consider that while colored lights might well bring a bit of fleeting holiday spirit, the Light of Christ brings ETERNAL salvation. Follow the path illuminated by Christ. It will lead you to eternal joy. Resist the secular temptation to bypass the extraordinary Advent Season. Savor the brilliant, spiritual scenery of this season of joy and hope.