Today’s Readings: AM Psalm 25; PM Psalm 9, 15; Amos 7:1-9; Rev. 1:1-8; Matt. 22:23-33
A Reflection from Ed Keithly, Adult Vocation Officer on Diocesan Staff
Pre-Reflection Pledge: I solemnly swear that this reflection will make no mention of the “War on Christmas” and that the phrase “holiday season” is penned without irony or enmity toward said phrase.
With a uniquely human ease I can turn the opportunity the holiday season affords us to be with friends and family into a time of anxiety. The obligatory seasonal errands – cooking, cleaning, gift buying – if I’m not careful, make me nearsighted. The thing can become the shopping and cleaning, rather than preparations for our ever-insufficient time together.
And when it comes time to break bread and be merry, exhausted by preparations and feeling undervalued or overextended, I can begin to see my friends’ and family’s quirks as deep character flaws. An innocent observation of my choice to have one more beer or a friend needing to back out of dinner plans can make me awfully ungracious. Inexplicably, I’ll find myself fixing an antagonistic bayonet to my words and taking jabs at loved ones. And for what? To test the bounds of their unconditional love for me? Certainly those who have put up with me this long deserve better than my worst.
This type of holiday-related strife increases when I compartmentalize the holiday season and Advent. In one corner of my life for the next month is Advent: beautiful, solemn and expectant; colored by the hope that our long-expected Jesus will “from our fears and sins release us” (Hymn 66). In the other corner there is the holiday season, marked by commercialism, “Christmas” parties, and tacky sweaters (not to speak ill of tacky sweaters). It’s easy to see the two as boxers in a prize fight – one the strong favorite and evil, the other vastly outmatched and good. This might be heresy, but I find it would be absurd, impossible to embrace only the Advent I know on Sunday, and to cut out the holiday season as if it’s a tumor. If I lived like an Advent hermit, judging every red and green decoration and declining invitations to every party with a liturgical misnomer, I would alienate myself from my un-churched and less-churched friends and family.
I am much more fulfilled when I follow the deacon’s dismissal and carry Advent and its quiet promise with me into the tumult of the holiday season. When I’m at my best this season, I will keep my baptismal vows close – loving my neighbor and respecting the dignity of all. At a party I will ask a friend how she’s doing and listen carefully to her response. I will give a little more to United Way and take a little less for myself. And with any luck, my humble offerings will prepare the way for Christmas, released from fear and selfishness, a time when I may come to know the fullness of Advent’s promise everywhere and in every season.