Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent: Lent, with Christmas Lights.

[Originally published... for someone else]

How many of us grew up with the concept that Advent was just Lent, only for Christmas? As a child of the '90s, my experience tells me “not many.”

Don't worry, this isn't going to be the standard “spirituality over materialism” Christmas special that you usually get this time of year. After all, if 40 years of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” isn't going to convince the Internet, then one blog post isn't going to tip the balance. Besides, if you're reading this post, it is unlikely that you need convincing. I can't see many of my readers involved in a Black Friday shootout over the latest gadgets.

However, how many of us take the time to prepare ourselves, spiritually, for the coming of Christmas, and Jesus' birthday? Assuming that neither you nor I are involved in the latest riot at a toy store – my gift shopping was done in August – we are free from any special psychosis-inducing event that comes with the materialism of the season. But what of the day-to-day?

Let us consider, for a moment, just how special Christmas is. Yes, Christ was incarnate, etc, etc … does that really matter? After all, Christmas isn't considered the most important part of the Catholic calender, Easter is. There's a reason that Handel's Messiah has the “Hallelujah Chorus” in the section covering Easter. And, for Easter, we pull out all the stops, don't we? We fast, we abstain, we confess.

What do we do for Advent? If we go by what your average church encourages, probably not as much as we should. While Easter is the day in the Eucharistic calender, Christmas is what makes Easter possible.

So, something to dwell on, if you would (I abhor the word “meditation”); try something that our Pope would be familiar with – the Jesuit practice of imagining. In this case, just imagine if you were the creator of every speck of dust and every watt of electrons, and you make a choice to become – at best – a foot-long, 12-pound creature without the brainpower to utter a coherent sound. And you do this so that you can clean up the mistakes of people who really should have known better. Isn't that a strange thing to do?

It was Fulton Sheen who once described the reason that Jesus had to be incarnate in order for our salvation. He explained it very simply as a form of retribution, of repayment. If you steal my watch and ask me to forgive you, I will, but I want my watch back. Now, what happens when you offend against an infinite Being that is so far beyond our experience, the wonders of time and space are dwarfed? What kind of repayment can we utilize to make amends? Only something just as infinite – in this case, someone.

Yes, I agree, this is quite of bit of depth coming from someone who dedicates pages to shootouts in between bits of history just so he can revenge himself on Dan Brown, et al, but I have my moments.

In the memory of the Infinite Being who became a mewling infant, let's try to put in as much effort to Advent as to Lent. Visit a confessional, give up something if you like. Just … something.

As for me? I take a page from St. Augustine, who once said that “Singing is praying. When one sings, one prays twice.” 

There's a reason that I'm always on the hunt for a perfect rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High”. 

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