A few weeks ago I was in the drugstore and happened to be standing in a particular spot that had a rather surreal tableau. I saw a large ghoul resembling a Grim Reaper, a plastic skeleton, a turkey, and Christmas trees all in the same line of sight. The irony that really caught my attention was not the odd panorama of holiday festival decorations but the fact that on a day before Halloween the Thanksgiving turkey already had a clearance sticker attached to it.
Being a seminary trained priest, my initial response to seeing this amorphous blob of merriment was to roll my eyes at the commercial consumerism of it all that has seemingly co-opted the season of Advent entirely. Often clergy feel that trying to promote the Season of Advent is a hopeless battle. The merriment of the Christmas season is over before it has even begun, as the Christmas decorations are taken down on December 26th, although the great feast of Christmas only begins on the 25th and properly goes for twelve days and not one.
The more I got to thinking about it, however, the more I was convinced that the scene I saw was not as far off base as I wanted to believe at first. Though largely shallow and secular in nature, the dark imagery of Halloween, the Thanksgiving turkey, and the Christmas trees that I saw all on display at the store did contain reflections of the Truth presented to us in Advent.
Advent is a season full of imagery involving light and darkness where we use the Advent candles to symbolize hope, love, joy, and peace. We have bible readings on the Sundays of Advent that reference beginnings and endings. Above all, Advent is a season of waiting and expectation, of being thankful for the blessings we do have while preparing for the Greatest Blessing all, manifested in the birth of the Christchild on the Feast of the Nativity, commonly called Christmas.
This year I invite you to try to find the meaning of Advent this year in the midst of what our culture portrays as the "Holiday Season," so that when our Christmas actually does come on December 25th, we may encounter the real, living Christ that will warm our hearts and not a cheap, plastic imitation that will leave us feeling empty.