Reflection 11/29: Balancing the sacred and secular in Advent
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
We know you don’t have to be religious to celebrate Christmas. However, if you do believe that Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, something should drive you nuts. It’s that in consumerist America, leading up to the ancient season of Advent is another hyped type of feast day that’s called Black Friday.
For us Christians, both black and Friday have immediate connotations, and Black Friday wells up something alarming and dreadful on many levels. Indeed, we can’t think about Christmas without thinking about the cross of Calvary. Scripture and hymnody both presage the death and resurrection story. Christmas music is often mournful in a minor key. Yet, marking Christmas is like celebrating the birth of any child: It’s a time of rejoicing, rather than thinking ahead to how difficult this child’s life will be because being human is invariably hard. Funeral garb is not associated with a maternity ward or home nursery.
We can’t help it that Christmas has become a riot of consumerism, much of it wildly off kilter. Often people spend savings or run up credit cards to buy things they don’t need or don’t fit, that will eventually break or tear, get lost or forgotten. I say this knowing that I will most certainly go shopping myself. Having a Thanksgiving feast on the eve of Black Friday, some few days before the first Sunday in Advent is much like scraping fingernails down a chalkboard. It can send a shiver down the spine, even into the soul.
The barn door has already opened too wide to insist that we’ve going to successfully keep the “Christ in Christmas.” We can still give presents, decorate, and sing carols. As Christians, we also need to find ways to keep the secular juggernaut from spoiling this sacred season of the year. It’s up to us.