We face a choice. We have to make a decision.
In the malls, the “holiday” music has already been tinkling through the speakers for a week or two. Pretty soon we will be called upon to clink our glasses with Andre. Or to sit on Santa’s lap. Or to swipe Visa and MasterCard 24/7, until the stores close at midnight on December 24.
I do not claim to understand how “Black Friday” got it’s name. But something dark and terrible and menacing has indeed overtaken the month before Christmas. For many Americans, December has become a month of stress and futility.
We can, dear brothers and sisters, find an amazing irony in all this. We have to find it, because if we don’t, the sad pointlessness of ‘holidays’ without religion will give us the blues, big time.
To keep the holy season of Advent means transporting ourselves spiritually to the ancient times before the coming of Christ. It means making the interior effort to stop taking for granted all the magnificent things that have been revealed to us by the coming of the babe of Bethlehem.
Back before He came, a number of crucial questions still remained very much open. Like: What actually is the meaning of all this? (i.e., the world, life, day and night, the passage of time, having a mind, etc.)
Or: How exactly are we supposed to act? Or: Do we have any hope for justice and goodness and truth in this world of confusion, selfishness, and lies?
Or: If we beg God to be merciful to us, will He be—or will He just crush us like stinkbugs caught up in a vacuum cleaner? Or: How are we supposed to pray anyway? Or: Does God even care about us?
The irony I have in mind is this: These are precisely the kind of questions that I could imagine might run through the mind of a woman who had waited an hour in line at Best Buy to get her son an iPhone 5.5gx Superbonanza edition—only to discover that the new device requires a bigger data plan that costs an extra $50 a month.
Or these questions about the meaning of life might run through the mind of a man as he tosses a dry and flaking pine tree on the trash heap on December 26th, with only a stack of credit-card receipts left to show for all the ‘holiday’ cheer.
What could be more ironic: Nothing can show us our desperate need for Christ, for the Messiah, so well as the frantic, shallow, materialistic “Christmas” season we have now in modern America. The false, un-Christian Christmas season will leave a person every bit as desperate for the Savior as the ancient Jews and pagans were.
Did the ancient Jews, in their heart of hearts, wonder if their endless daily sacrifices of goats and birds really accomplished anything? Did the pagan peoples of old look to the heavens and wonder about whether one true God reigned supreme? That maybe the true God actually does have a grand plan that makes everything make sense?
Yes, they wondered these things. And don’t you figure that there is a Wal-Mart clerk or two out there wondering the same? A UPS guy or two? Shouldn’t we look for a heavenly prince sent from God to save our beleaguered souls?
So, dear brothers and sisters, the decision we have to make: What does the month before Christmas Day mean?
Does it mean: spend, eat, drink, spend, rush and hustle, and spend? Or does it mean: Hold everything, turn down the volume on all our devices, and pray hard?
Does it mean: flim-flam our way through, with bromides about world peace and a spirit of giving? Or does it mean holding on for dear life to one single hope, namely the coming of baby Jesus?
Is December a month to stare at the t.v. in a dull haze of shopped-out exhaustion? Or is it the month for us to dig deep in prayer and meditation, so that we can find the true joy of actually believing that Almighty God was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
Let’s make our choice to spend the month with the quiet, ancient Israelites, with the prophets who tightened their belts and kept watch, with the happy expectation that, any minute now, the eternal day will dawn.
…In “Hamlet,” Horatio spends the night with the castle guards to watch for the roaming ghost of the dead king of Denmark. When the night is spent and the cock crows, one of the guards speaks about keeping watch during the nights leading up to Christmas. He says,
Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.
The month to come will prove to be so hallow’d and so gracious a time, if we make it so–by turning off the t.v. and listening carefully and quietly to the Word of God. Let’s make our choice, dear brothers and sisters, to keep a holy month of silence and prayer.