So, the Christmas decorations and presents began creeping onto the store shelves in August this year. Yes, I saw it with my own eyes. For the next three months you could not walk within 3 feet of a Christmas display without hearing another shopper complain, “Christmas already?” “Can’t they at least wait until Halloween?” I have been that shopper myself in years past.
Now, maybe it is just my particular situation, but I don’t mind. Right now I am busy with children in almost every stage of life, activities that require lots of driving, and part-time work. Right now, my to-do list is more like a try-to-do list. Honestly, for something that involves as much work as planning, budgeting, sneaking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating, cooking as Christmas, I need all the heads-up I can get! This isn’t a Hallmark movie where we can decorate the house, put up the tree, make cookies, bring them to the neighbors, make a gingerbread house and attend the neighborhood caroling party before heading to midnight Mass while having an Ebenezer Scrooge moment, all in a day. The baby doesn’t disappear off-screen when it isn’t convenient.
People still have to go to work, some more than usual. Children still get sick. We can’t all afford take-out-Chinese when the kitchen is swimming in confectioner’s sugar. It is stressful. And if you try to fit all that fun and prep and life into the month of December, you will end up in a fetal position at the foot of your bed.
So now, here we are, a few days into Advent already. The modern Christmas season has taken over and what time or energy is left for the season of Advent? Do we have time to reflect on the waiting? Do we have time to reflect on the coming of Christ and mystery of the Incarnation in the Salvation of the World? Do we have time for Advent Wreaths and Jesse Trees and sacrificing and service? This is the work of Advent.
Some would tell you that the answer is to dismiss the trappings of the Secular Christmas. But, I think most of us strive for a balance. Let’s remember that the secular traditions are truly steeped in religious symbolism. I like to stay positive and focus on the fact that our modern world still embraces Christ’s birthday, the most beautiful and special and love-filled day of the year. So, yes, I want to share gifts and sing songs, put up a tree, and have special treats that are just for Christmas AND I want the coming of Christ to be our main focus through Advent.
I don’t wait for the money for Christmas to magically appear in December; I put aside some money each month cover Christmas gifts and expenses. So why not with my time? I am glad to see the Christmas things out nice and early. It gives me time to plan, and process, and shop carefully and deliberately. Stores always carry clothing for the upcoming season with the idea that people need to shop for what they need BEFORE they use it. I really prefer to get a lot of the business of Christmas crossed off the list.
Now that Advent is here, I am excited for Advent traditions and devotions with much less stress and distraction. The extra time helps me to have time to think things out and then I’m less likely to overdo it, overspend, or generally get in over my head. And if you didn’t do much beforehand and are finding yourself with 3 weeks until Christmas, please don’t panic. Take a day or two to plan what is most important to you and try to strike a balance with secular and spiritual preparation. Keep it simpler. Next year, when they put the decorations out in July, just say, “Yay! Six months to get ready so we can have a beautiful Advent this year!”
Copyright 2016 Kate Daneluk