I think I go through this every year.
Shortly after Halloween, stores start selling Christmas trees and I flip out. Even though this happens every year (though maybe it happens earlier and earlier each year) I am shocked each time. I always do something to the effect of screaming “it’s too early!” or scowling and struggling for words to express my frustration.
Next come the decorations in public places: the tinsel and wire poinsettia on street lamps, occasional wreaths, and so forth. Again: “too early.”
Then comes the Christmas music. The day after Thanksgiving local radio stations start playing rudolph and winter wonderland and jingle bells as fast as Walmart is selling it’ Black Friday doorbusters.
Now, can I just ask WHAT HAPPENED TO ADVENT?
I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone, especially not those who celebrate a Christmas of a more secular flavor. But for Christians, especially us Catholics, isn’t Advent important? Don’t we move through cycle of liturgical seasons? In the same way that Lent leads to Easter, shouldn’t Advent lead to Christmas? Both are supposed to be a time of preparation after all.
As the Catechism says,
“When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present [the] ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.” (par. 524).
That’s what Advent is about: sharing in the Israelite’s waiting and remembering that we too are waiting. So, if they prepared for Jesus’ First Coming for centuries, couldn’t we spend 4 measly weeks preparing to celebrate that First Coming as we also remember that a second is on its way?
Now I’m not saying you should wait until December 25th to break out the Christmas tunes, or put up the tree. I will admit I’ve already listened to some Christmas music. (Yes, I’m a flawed and fallen hypocrite. But aren’t you? Aren’t we all?) However, that’s what tends to happen with me. At first I’m a fortress scowling at poinsettia but eventually I start to accept the Christmasyness and eventually embrace it (not quite there yet).
However, what’s important to remember is it’s not Christmas yet, rather we are in a time of preparation. A friend recently said to me Christmas music can be a part of that preparation. I don’t argue that point necessarily. To go back to Black Friday however (without delving into the broader topic of the commercialization of Christmas) Walmart always has great deals right? So do we need a hundreds-of-dollars-off plasma TV to remind us of that? Do we need 24/7 Jingle Bells to remind us Christmas is coming? Is listening to Christmas music while its still November a serious sin? No. I really don’t think so. Is it a sin at all? Probably not.
If we tell people to not eat desert before they’ve finished their main course (to borrow an example from chastity speakers) why should we let them indulge in Christmas revelry when the season is still weeks away? The 12 days of Christmas start December 25th, they don’t end there. But that’s another post.
UPDATE: As it so often does, writing got me to thinking, then I was talking and in short I think I’ve come up with something I’d like to add to this post.
Christmas music and decorations can, I believe, help prepare you for Christmas and get you excited for it. However, I have two caveats. 1) don’t celebrate. As long as Away in a Manger and those twinkling icicle lights are preparation and not celebration that’s fine. Just remind yourself it’s not Christmas yet. 2) Keep Christ in Christmas. Don’t let the lights and the carols get you distracted from what we are really trying to do in Advent (see Catechism quote above), rather let them, if you can, be a part of that.