This year may be the best one in a long time for all Christians to re-examine Christmas and take Advent to heart. A bad economy and a Walmart stampede which gave new meaning to “Black Friday,” offer us good occassion to reflect on the inanity of the American “Christmas” Season.
For years I have been deeply disturbed by the grand materialistic orgy that is the gringo Xmas. The Lord who came to us in humble human vesture, in utter simplicity and taught us to find our serenity in the goods of heaven rather than the goods of this world has become hopelessly lost in a sea of Santa’s hocking gadgets which rob us of time and mental energy to reflect upon and deepen our spiritual lives.
American addiction to diversion in the form of distraction, I believe, alienates us from worship, our families, friendships, generosity toward our neighbor, broader community experiences, and all the other matters of the heart which Christ tells us are the very essence of the Gospel. Overly entertained, over-fed, titilated and otherwise overindulged, our spirits are numbed and beaten down.
I should admit that I am as over-indulged as most and am in as much need for reform as any. But reform of life is the constant call of the Gospel. We need not be embarrassed but encouraged by our need for conversion, for it’s possibility is what salvation is all about.
First to Evangelicals. I would like to call all Evangelicals to stop preaching the prosperity gospel. It is a false gospel. God does not want us all to be rich. He wants us all to be faithful and to find our joy in him, not in creature comforts. I consider the prosperity gospel to be a significant contributing factor in our present crisis. The prosperity gospel has not made Evangelicals richer, just more over-extended with credit card debt. The American dream is not the Gospel. And avarice is the foremost sin in the New Testament.
Second, to Catholics, Orthodox and all liturgical Christians. Observe Advent, or for the Orthodox, the Fast of St. Andrew. Advent, has within it all the attributes we Americans so desperately need right now. Patient Waiting. Hope. Home and Hearth. Prayer. Fasting. Faith in the Jesus not only of Bethlehem, but more importantly the Christ of New Jerusalem at the fulfillment of time.
Advent reminds us:
- Our treasure is in heaven, not in this world
- John the Baptist was a man of fasting and penance.
- John the Baptist called the world to repentance.
- Mary and Joseph had to patiently await the Lord even as the world awaited the Messiah.
So, yes, observe your Advent this year diligently. And celebrate your Christmas so that Jesus is the beginning and the end, the source and the summit, the heart and the center of your celebrations. For he will be your joy.