Many of us lament the premature arrival of Christmas decorations in stores. You can buy Christmas trees and lights from CostCo just days after Labor Day. Things start to heat up even more by mid-November, and by the Friday after Thanksgiving, it is ON. I don't have anything concrete to back this up, but it seems even worse this year. Christmas is popping up everywhere, to the point that Thanksgiving won't be the beginning of the Christmas season, but instead a holiday within it.
This is to be expected on some level. If the economy is still pokey, then stores are going to want to hasten the arrival of the shopping season. It is to their advantage to create a sense of urgency, and to make the season as long as possible. And don't misunderstand me---I think it's problematic to get sucked into that.
But what I'm especially interested in is the arrival of Christmas in individual homes. I have a number of friends who have already begun the Christmas season. Their tree is up. They're listening to Christmas music. Shopping is well underway (though perhaps that's nothing new---some of us like to get it done early).
I say this not to judge. I'm curious about it, and wonder if others have noticed this. It's purely anecdotal stuff. But if I'm right, it makes sense. The country seems depressed to me. Someone said to me today, "Obama has not done a good job as Cheerleader in Chief." And this is someone who is very supportive of the President generally. You can argue that that's not his primary job---maybe it's our job as members of a community. Maybe it's my job, and the job of other spiritual leaders.
But we are in need of some cheer.
And maybe the longing for Christmas is wrapped up in all of this.
It won't surprise you to hear that I'm not an Advent purist. I get the point of Advent, and agree that spiritual preparation helps us not get carried away in a wave of kitschy detritus and overconsumption. There's something nice about not jumping the gun. There's something lovely in letting the moment ripen.
On the other hand, I think when we the Theologically Correct insist on purity (no Christmas music until X, no tree until Y), when we hold Christmas back with a whip and a chair, because it's good for us, darnit!... then we are missing something. I agree with Tom Are of Village Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, who said a few years back, "I just don't think any more that the church gets to tell the culture what time it is. That just doesn't connect with people."
If what I'm noticing is a larger trend, it would seem that we need a little Christmas... right this very minute.
And if that's the case... then is a slavish adherence to Advent prophetic, or just out of step with what is deeply needed?