Monday, November 30, 2009
The Advent Plan--Part II
Finding a balance between "doing" Advent and "living" Advent is tricky business. Inspired by the Church calendar, we're seeking to live out the liturgy each day during this season, which means the opportunities for prayer, reflection and growth are endless. Sounds great, right?
It's all ready prepared. People have followed this rhythm for thousands of years. And secular it is not. It doesn't even call for a single present bought or wrapped. There's no party invitation to send or appetizer to prepare. You don't even have to mix a drink. (Although, a nice hot mug of gluhwein sounds pretty good right now.) It just couldn't get any easier.
Then why--oh, why--do the most well-meaning, faith-filled and God-fearing people find themselves stressed out during Advent? Our intentions (yes, "our"--I may well be leading this brigade of Advent do-gooders) are so pure, our hearts so humble, where could we have gone wrong?
The answer is so simple, and it's repeated over and over again (now available on 300 HD channels 7 days a week beginning the week before Thanksgiving) in our treasured Christmas programing.
The Grinch knew it, "Maybe Christmas", he thought, "doesn't come from a store."
"Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"
Charlie Brown knew it, ""Aaaaaugh! Even my dog's gone commercial!", he hollers after seeing Snoopy's prize-winning light display
and again when he announces, "“Linus is right. I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas..."
We watch year after year, with our eyes misting up at the pure truth behind the sentimentality of it all and then we develop a sudden and acute short-term memory loss:
"If you're to be "doing" Advent," our mind hisses, "you'd better get to doing it soon. You only have four weeks--aka 28 days--better still 672 hours--or more precisely..." You shake your head to rid it of all the small talk and decide to get to "doing" Advent right away--before it's gone.
And in the rush to do so we buy into the commercialism, the consumerism, the need to fill our every day with more. Only this time, it's with something good and deserving of our want--it's Advent. But looking for one more Advent song to sing, buying one more Advent calendar or craft, searching for that perfect prayer or story to read in order to "do" Advent simply misses the point.
In our society, one of rampant consumerism, we aren't only avid consumers of material goods. We're consumers by nature of information, of ideas and of goals. In the rush to be the one with the most, or the best, we may find ourselves so busy trying to consume Advent that we don't allow it to consume us. Against the tide of the culture, we need to step aside while the frenzy of clever thoughts and activities pass us by and we do nothing more than watch and wait.
It is in those moments of waiting, for which this Church season is specifically designed, that allow us the opportunity to step away from the rush of the secular season and into the beauty and the freedom of the One who is to come.