ĎTis the season Ö.. notÖÖ.
No sooner had the ghouls and skeletons that had bedecked the shops throughout October been packed away than the Christmas paraphernalia made its appearance. I say it every year, and I hope itís not because Iím becoming a grumpy old man, but Christmas in November is all too much. Apart from anything else it intrudes into what should be a beautiful season in itself Ė Advent.
The TV ad campaigns are well under way with images of snow covered streets, warm cosy fires and tables bedecked with enough food for a banquet. Now advertisers may be a lot of things but they are no fools. They have learned over many years that advertising works, it pays. Childrenís adverts are particularly effective creating a demand for the latest must have toys. It exerts a not so subtle pressure on parents, and at a time when itís not easy for families to make ends meet often creates unreasonable expectations in the kids they are targeted at, and often a terrible guilt in the parents who canít provide them.
The drinks ads too crank up their output in these weeks all designed to give us a craving for the vital ingredient in Christmas Ė alcohol. Just observe the floor space the major supermarkets will devote to alcohol sales it says it all.
There is of course a celebratory aspect to Christmas and excess is always a part of celebration. Iíve no wish to pour cold water on anybodyís festivities but I do believe we have lost the plot when it comes to Christmas. Coming just at that point in winter when the days are short and the evenings dull and dismal itís hardly surprising that we want to be of good cheer, but without Jesus the season has no meaning.
Advent is that few weeks leading up to Christmas and it invites us in an altogether different way to prepare for the big day. It is a gentle season without the penitential feel of Lent, it invites us rather to chill out and rediscover the true cause for celebration, Jesus, God-made -man. It is a season of watching and waiting of quiet reflection. The readings on the Sundays of Advent seek to draw us in to an understanding of the great event of the birth of the Lord, and a reminder that he will come again. We live in the between times the most privileged era of human history enlightened by the presence among us of the one who has come.
Advent begins on Sunday December 3rd and ends on Sunday December 24th, just three short weeks Ė make it special! Oh, and I say this each year, give some thought to your choice of Christmas Card this year, why not make it a religious card? We can leave Happy Holidays to the advertisers.
Fr. Philip Curran