Well, it’s that time again, folks! Thanksgiving has come and gone and, according to the secular world, it is Christmastime! Time to deck the halls and play Christmas tunes and shop, shop, shop! Everyone is in a Christmas mood!
Everyone, that is, except for the Liturgically Correct, who know that it’s not Christmastime, it’s ADVENT, the time of preparation before Christmas. Just like Lent is not Easter and black is not white.
Christmas doesn’t start until Dec 25th. Remember that old Christmas song, the Twelve Days of Christmas? It tells of the twelve days of Christmas, days after the 25th, during the days in which Christians celebrate Christmas, not before. (The Liturgical season of Christmas ends with the Feast of the Epiphany, dontcha know.)
Every time this whole argument starts up, I get tired and cranky. It has the potential for ruining my whole Advent and Christmas season. I’m tired of hearing about keeping Christ in Christmas and celebrating Advent during Advent and Christmas after the 25th. I’m tired of people fighting, especially over religious things and during a time when we should be joyful, full of love, and when we should be trying to see the Baby Jesus in our neighbor (and everyone else).
Shouting “Keep Christ in Christmas!” at the top of our lungs, and “HELLO! Christmas doesn’t start until the 25th!” feels like a tantrum every year.
I know that my less than liturgically accurate brothers and sisters see it that way, too. “GET OVER IT!” they must be thinking. “You do your thing, and we’ll do ours.”
And while I’m not one to argue with the Liturgical calendar–or the Church, for that matter–I won’t deny that I understand where our brothers and sisters are coming from.*
Keep Christ in Christmas
I do get frustrated by how the world secularizes one of the most important Christian Holy Days by pushing the Baby Jesus and the whole point of His coming in a corner (nobody puts Baby Jesus in a corner…). They’re doing it to Easter, too, aren’t they? Making it all about chocolate and bunnies and eggs. Heck, they’re doing it to many of our Liturgical Feast days! St Patrick’s Day is about snakes and drinking and parades. St Valentine’s Day is about hearts and candy and expensive dinners. It’s annoying, and it drives me crazy.
But lets be fair. Hasn’t Christianity usurped many secular or pagan celebrations and Christianized them? Winter solstice became Christmas. Spring equinox became Easter. What goes around comes around.
Does this mean that we should just throw up our hands and wave the white flag? No… just because the world isn’t Christian doesn’t mean that I have to be any less so. If the President or the school system or my neighbor doesn’t recognize my Holy Days, that doesn’t keep me from doing so.
Happy Holidays/Season’s Greetings
I have never had a problem saying “Happy Holidays” during this time. I reason this way: how do I know that the person to whom I am speaking is a Christian and celebrates Christmas? We don’t live in a Christian world, after all. The people I meet from day to day might be atheist, agnostic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, whatever.
At the end of the day, I think that Jesus would prefer that I treat my brothers and sisters in Christ–be they Christian or not–with love and respect, and not demand that everyone acknowledge my Holy Days, while I ignore theirs. Plus, for me, saying “Happy Holidays” to someone doesn’t make Advent less Adventy or Christmas less Christmassy. I’m happy, and it’s the holy days. What’s not to like about that?
The Materialism of it All
The world has become a very materialistic place, yes. No one saves. Everyone is in debt. And Christmas is all about shopping. Whatever. Just because the world says jump doesn’t mean I have to. If you have issues with how materialistic the season or the world has become, change your world. Don’t go shopping. Make gifts. Or don’t give gifts at all. Celebrate the Baby Jesus’ birthday, instead. Who cares if people think it’s cheesy?! Do your thing and don’t be ashamed of it. As my friend tells me, wave that freak flag high. And be proud of it.
Advent versus Christmas
Remember that while you might be agonizing over the fact that it’s Advent and everyone else is celebrating Christmas early, remember this: not all of those people are Christian. Not all of them care what you or the Church thinks, either. The world, and people in it, are going to do whatever they want to do. So you do your thing.
Read advent books.
Light Advent candles.
Make it simple.
Or just do what you can.
Create your own traditions.
Pray throughout Advent. Pray for those who are less fortunate than we are.
Consider the wonder of Advent and what it all means.
Do something to help them.
Go to Mass. Go to Confession. Bring a friend.
Watch this awesome video and share it on social media.
And when it’s Christmastime, CELEBRATE.
Then, Change the World
I think it’s safe to say that all of us wishes that the world and the people in it behaved the way we wanted them to. We wish that people were truly loving toward one another. We wish that Christmas was Christmas and Easter was Easter and that God were the center of everyone’s hearts.
This quote is attributed to both Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi:
Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mother Teresa also said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
I recently read an article about how to get people to do what you want that is very relevant to this discussion. It refers to a new TV series on National Geographic Channel called “Crowd Control” that looks pretty interesting. In this series, producers showed how certain ways of trying to get people to change their actions failed, while others succeeded.
For those of us who want the world to keep Christ in Christmas, I think we could learn a thing or two from the things these producers discovered. Read the article and watch the series. But let me tell you, the one quote from this article that stood out the most for me, and which we Christians need to remember at all times is this:
Setting an example is far more powerful than telling people what to do.”
If you want people to be loving, be loving first.
If you want people to smile, you smile first.
If you want people to be polite, be polite first.
If you want people to respect you, respect them first.
If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, who is stopping you? Keep Him in your heart as you respond to those around you. Keep Him in your mind as you consider how you will spend this Advent and Christmas. Keep Him on your lips as you speak to those who do not know of our traditions–if you get the chance, teach them with love, and pray that God will open their minds and hearts to His will for them. Maybe someday, we can all work together to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
But do us all a favor. Stop yelling this Advent. Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas (on TV). Or whatever Christmas movie makes you happy. And don’t forget the reason for the season.
*For the record, I do believe that Christmas doesn’t start until the 25th. I keep my tree up until Epiphany, and I try my best to make Advent a time of preparation. I also put my Christmas tree up at the beginning of Advent and I have been known to play Christmas music shortly after Thanksgiving. As I type this, I am listening to my all-time favorite Christmas album, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Let it be said that doing these things does not make me a better or worse Christian than anyone else. I have a hard time believing that when I die, “playing Christmas music before the season” will even be part of God’s consideration when He judges me worthy of Heaven or Hell.
Advent image “Liesel 09-12-2012 2. Advent” by Liesel – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons