The greeting "Happy Holidays" doesn't offend me in the least. It is another way of saying "Happy Holy Days". I think it is a beautiful phrase.
In the same way, the decorations and parties and merriment during Advent don't offend me either. People love merriment and people will do what people will do. Rather than get offended by the secular observance, I often find myself tainted by expectations of fellow Christians.
We're preparing for the birth of a precious baby and when you're preparing to meet someone you love and whom you look forward to seeing, you naturally prepare in earnest. You shop, you cook, you clean, and you set up a special spot for your guest.
It's what we do! It's what we're all doing. I know it's commercialized and materialized but that need not taint my Christmas reality.
My Catholic identify knows that Advent is a time given to penance and meditation and preparation. We are told it is a time of stillness but really it isn't. That's the ideal and in a perfect world we would all reach Christmas day knowing what the shepherds knew.
The truth, in this less than perfect world, is that the shepherds were only a few chosen men. The rest of the world lay in silence. They didn't know what was present upon the horizon and neither do we.
Arriving at our churches on Christmas Day with the knowledge of the shepherds does not mean we arrive at the stable ill-tempered and irritated with the world around us. The veil of night has not parted for them. They are in darkness, the truth not revealed yet but this does not mean it won't be revealed.
The meditation and observance of our Savior is our vigil. It is not something we can force upon others. Sharing...yes...is something we can and should do during Advent for Christmas is a gift.
But back to the rest of the world asleep that December eve...
We know that some of the world is still in silence through the night. We would do better to approach Christmas with this knowledge firmly in hand rather than engage in high expectation from those around us.
Some of those shoppers we pass in the store don't know nor care who they're preparing to meet in the cavity of their heart and the sanctuary of their soul but they replicate, in part, what we are trying to do spiritually.
And it is all done in Love which is where the Spirit works best.
They are preparing to welcome those they love. The baking of goodies, the cleaning and beautifying of home and hearth, the earnest shopping sprees, and all the other hustle and flow are part of a massive preparation to rejoice in those we Love. Hopefully they find Christ in this Spirit of Love and, when the stores close and everyone goes home, they feel a Sense of Peace which I know Christ desires to give them.
It's a holy hush.
I mentioned these thoughts briefly in There's a New Color Around:
"It's a penitential time of year but it's also a waiting, a holding, a reverent moment in time, a preparation. Rather than preparing for a death and an open tomb, we are preparing for the birth of a baby.
"It's a pregnant pause.
"Some in the church would say Advent, as a pregnant pause, should not have so much hustle and bustle and there is no room for frantic pacing. Any one is has been pregnant remembers the month before the birth compared to the month following the birth. They know what a pregnant pause entails.
"When we prepare for a baby during that pregnant pause we cook and freeze dinners, we select birth announcements, we make sure the camera battery is working, we decorate the nursery and people give us gifts. It's a blissful, happy time of life.
"There are pauses of meditation and wonderment. There are moments of quiet reflection. It's a hustle-y, bustle-y, frantic season of life.
"Our culture is what it is. We can work to make it holy. Preparation is not holy hush and quiet reflection. Preparation calls for action and service. There is lots of merriment and rejoicing during this holy season of Advent. I think it's good and holy. It's the rejocing of the upcoming birth.
"After the birth comes the holy hush and quiet reverence over new creation and the fullness of God made man."
* * * * *
While, as a Christian, I understand the Christian-cry that trumpets the Christmas season, I personally breathe relief as the secular Christmas is taken down from the store shelves and city streets. The rest of the world goes back into its fitful slumber and I am left alone with Mary to contemplate what this birth means to me and my household. My home's own decorations will be placed in heavenly peace sometime this week or next. The only thing I leave in place until after the Feast of the Epiphany is the Nativity. Afterall, the wise men haven't arrived yet.
It isn't that I don't love this time of preparation. I really do love the Advent season and all the rich, rewarding feast days found within it but, after a month of it, I'm ready to let go of the material items and reality and focus on on the ideal. Maybe it's my melancholic side that is more pronounced after sugar-highs and feasting and parties but I truly need this quiet time for contemplation.
I need this holy hush.
I relate well to this Bittersweet post. No matter how good the day, the festivities, the rejoicing, and the many loved ones; I am often left feeling void and somewhat deflated on Christmas night...much like a pregnant woman after giving birth.
There are many reasons for this...so many that another post would gush forth if I attempted to name them all.
The holy hush gifts me with no more expectations heaped upon me, no more ideals outside the reality of stable and lifetime of service, and no more celebrating but that which comes from within my own heart. I am thankful for the holy hush that follows. I actually look forward to this holy hush.
I am thankful to see Christmas given back its dignity this week. Honestly, the next 12 days are more worthy of Christian contemplation than the Advent season. I am thankful for this season more so than Advent. I am thankful to be able to say "Shhhh...a baby has been born...let me just sit here and adore Him."
I rather love the holy hush.
The time of penance and waiting is over.
The time to sit in thankful silence and listen to the holy hush is upon us.
May you all rest in His peace during this holy season.