The Holiday Season: Hype to Hope

The Holiday Season is almost here. A century ago it began on Christmas Eve. Then it moved to Thanksgiving and now it begins even before Halloween.  Of course that’s not counting the early September Christmas displays at Home Depot. Much of the holiday madness is driven by advertising promising more than can possibly be delivered.  The public is enticed to spend more than they should or to bemoan that they can’t meet spending expectations. In the end, the season can never quite live up to its hype.

Hallmark movies, advertising and oral mythology promise it to be a season of non stop parties, fabulous decorations, joyous reunions of friends and family.  It’s supposed to be the season of peace, joy, generosity, reconciliation, and gleeful greetings to strangers. Magic is in the air and on the air but somehow it never seems to come down to earth. Few of us experience the season in that fanciful way which can make it a season of anxiety about not getting it, not getting in on what others have, and not doing enough to reach Martha Stewart perfection.  

I’m not a humbug Scrooge. Why not relax and enjoy the frivolity in whatever way works for you?  Don’t get caught up in the excesses, anxieties or over indulgences that the season promotes.  It is a season of beautiful decorations that, whether yours or someone else’s, can be enjoyed just because it’s there.  Beautiful music can be heard in the streets, at concerts and on the air.  Enjoy it just because it can be heard.  If not end to end parties, there are always opportunities to get together for warm friendly conversation with neighbors, friends and family. Exchanging modest gifts given from the heart offer rich rewards for the one who gives and the one who receives. The key to the Holiday Season is to not make a big deal out of it, relax, enjoy what is enjoyable to you, avoid what is not, and let the insane ad driven frenzy pass you by.  If it is a season of grieving for you, don’t hide to grieve alone.  Share your grief with loving friends to rediscover the depth of consolation that grows from it. 

Christians should feel free to participate in the season as seems right for them.  It’s too bad there are some disturbed by the intrusion of so much paganish behavior in the holy season of Christmas, but they need to give it a rest.  Harvest festivals and midwinter celebrations have been a part of human society far longer than the Christian Christmas, and they’re not going away.  

It would be better for Christians to pay more attention to Advent, the four week preparation for the celebration of the nativity of our Lord on Christmas Eve and Day.  It’s a time for solemn remembrance of the events and prophecies leading to the birth of Jesus.  It’s a time for reflection on how to renew our intention to live more fully into the way of Christian love in the new year. It’s unfortunate that  some Christians skip Advent altogether, start singing Christmas Carols as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are done, and take down the tree before New Yaar’s Eve.

Advent is the prelude to Christmas that separates glitzy holiday stuff from the great need of the world for a Messiah bringing good news to the least and being born as one of them.  The Word of God made flesh in Jesus came as a baby dependent on his mother for human life and in need of his parents’ loving care to survive into adulthood.  Born in a stable in a time when Herod’s displeasure meant instant death, he was announced only to shepherds, animals, and probably some unknown women who came to aid the new mother, even though she was a stranger. The rest of the world slept on unaware and uncaring that in the nativity of Christ, the reconciling love of God was poured out for them. 

Observing Advent is preparation for the joyous celebration of the nativity from hearts filled with praise singing Glory to God in the highest and peace to everyone. And why not enjoy a few parties, decorations, food, and gifts as well, modestly, not to excess.

2 thoughts on “The Holiday Season: Hype to Hope”

  1. Yes, Amen, sir. I appreciate any congregation committed to observing the season of Advent and waiting (waiting!) for the joy of Christmas. I wish my UMC colleagues were more diligent in the discipline of waiting and preparation; too often we begin to sing the songs of Christmas as soon as the 2nd Sunday of Advent. To my mind, that would be like singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today any time during Lent. It’s just wrong, and a misguided surrender to the surrounding culture that waits for nothing.

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