For the world of business and retail, the Christmas season began right after the kids shed their Halloween costumes and started unwrapping their treats. Well before Thanksgiving, malls were decorated with lights and tinsel, “holiday” sales began, and at least one Twin Cities radio station switched to all Christmas music all the time.
Jumping the gun on Christmas earlier and earlier every year is becoming something of an American tradition itself. And, rightfully, more people are getting upset by it — just ask the Target employees who were trying to “save Thanksgiving” by petitioning the company to abandon its plans to keep pace with competitors by starting Black Friday sales at 9 p.m. on Thursday, before the turkey gravy even gets cold.
All of it is a symptom of our culture’s obsession with consumerism and its trivialization of the real meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons. Best-selling Catholic author and speaker Matthew Kelly says this is one of the unfortunate things about modern society: It makes the trivial seem important and the important seem trivial.
What’s important about the lead- up to Christmas isn’t getting the best deal on gifts to place under the Christmas tree. It isn’t office parties or beautiful decorations or 24/7 holiday music.
What’s important is preparing our hearts and minds for Jesus — his coming at Christmas and, ultimately, his coming at the end of time. That’s what Advent helps us to do, if we let it: rescue what’s important about the season from what society too often trivializes.
Immersed in the season
There are many ways to facilitate the rescue:
- If you have never prayed as a family around an Advent wreath, do it this year, starting with the first Sunday of Advent on Dec. 2. Progressively lighting the candles during each of the season’s four weeks and saying a short prayer together can help the whole family stay focused on Jesus during the post-Thanksgiving hustle and bustle. n If you haven’t taken advantage of the sacrament of penance in a while, make a commitment to go at least once during Advent. Getting right with God and the people in our lives is a great way to get a fresh spiritual start as Christmas approaches.
- While you’re at it, make a promise to do one extra, intentional good work — a random act of kindness — for someone you know — or, better yet, someone you don’t know. Volunteering our time, talent and treasure on behalf of the poor, the ill or the lonely, particularly during this time of year, is a wonderful witness to the Good News Jesus brings.
- Finally, in addition to taking time for prayer, make time to read a spiritually themed book over the course of the Advent season. A good book offers opportunities for learning and reflection that can help us become better Christian disciples. Check with your parish or local Catholic bookstore for suggestions.
This Advent, let’s stay focused on what’s important as we prepare for the coming of the baby in the manger — the source of our hope and joy and the real meaning of Christmas.