Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Somewhat Dispirited Advent Post

It’s ten days until Christmas, and I believe I’ve thought less about Advent and Christmas this year than in any year of my life past the age of three or so. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here apart from a few notes about the number of people who view my Advent pictures, and other than dealing with various practical concerns such as scheduling days off at work and a very small amount of Christmas shopping, I haven’t given it much real-world attention either.

I think there are several reasons for this, apart from my personal sloth, which is probably the biggest. One factor is the general harried busy-ness of life. There’s hardly any moment when something, some task or source of entertainment or communication (such as this blog) isn’t demanding attention. By far most of my time is spent either at work or getting ready to go to work or going to work or coming home from work.

And the cultural-commercial Christmas season, which begins before Advent and ends with a crash on December 26, really gets in the way. It produces a lot of distraction and activity just when you need the opposite if you’re really going to celebrate Christmas itself, to say nothing of observing Advent properly. As the days just before Christmas became more and more busy, more and more people and institutions have pushed their “Christmas” observances back toward the first week or two of December.

Also, I find that now that my children are grown it’s easier not to pay attention to the season. When they were young, there was a reason to create some visible sign of Advent, and to have specific activities. And of course Christmas was a very big deal. Now it’s easy just to skate along, maybe thinking an occasional Advent-ish thought but not actually doing anything different.

Well, there’s still time, still time to think about what is happening rather than just drifting along inattentively. To that end, here is an excerpt from the Pope’s message for the first Sunday of Advent which particularly struck me:

However, there are very different ways of waiting. If time is not filled by a present gifted with meaning, the waiting runs the risk of becoming unbearable; if something is expected, but at this moment there is nothing, namely, if the present is empty, every instant that passes seems exaggeratedly long, and the waiting is transformed into a weight that is too heavy because the future is totally uncertain. When, instead, time is gifted with meaning and we perceive in every instant something specific and valuable, then the joy of waiting makes the present more precious.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us live the present intensely...

The whole thing can be found here.