Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent. . . Eventually

We had a good time at my sister's for Thanksgiving.  It was the first major holiday without Dad.  It wasn't this deep melancholy thing; in fact, my brother, who is the executor of Dad's estate, brought some of the last of Dad's things to have us sort through, and take what we wanted.  I took an old tie-tack of Dad's, that was a 'working' pair of square gears.  It was very emblematic of Dad, and something an engineer like me can appreciate.

My sister is in the process of a divorce from her husband of 31 years (they were married the same summer as Jen and me).  So, for her sake, it was probably good to have some company to fill her house for the holiday; and filling houses is something our family excels at. . .

Alas, the Lions lost, and the less said about that, the better, probably. . .

But my Spartans finished their second consecutive football season with double-digit wins, something that's never been done before in school history (although, to be perfectly fair, our best teams, back in the 50s and 60s, only played nine or ten games, so double-digit seasons were a little harder to come by. . .)


We got to spend some time with our grandchildren and their parents yesterday evening, and had a really warm, wonderful time together.  Some really fine kids, being raised really well, there. . .


We've had a surplus of warm (albeit windy) Saturdays this November.  So, the 30 miles I rode yesterday brought me to a total of 1388 for the year.  If I can get in one ride in December (which I haven't done in fifteen years or so), I'll sneak past 1400 again.  Wish me luck. . .

OK, then. . . on to the main event. . .


This next is a re-post of something I wrote back in 2006 (and re-posted again last year. Who knows? Maybe this will end up being a Tradition around here. . .)

At any rate, 'tis the season. . . And while I'm at it, I'll give a shout-out to my good friend Suldog, whose 'Thanksgiving Comes First' campaign against premature Christmas-y-ness partially inspired my dredging this up from the archives. . .


In our culture, the Friday after Thanksgiving marks the more-or-less 'official' beginning of the commercial season of 'Christmas', with the sales, the extended hours at the malls, special advertisements, etc., etc (although, honestly, the stores have been in 'Christmas mode' pretty much since they took down the Halloween stuff; maybe even before that). It's what much, if not most, of our culture thinks of when they think of 'Christmas', but less and less does it have any discernible connection with the actual content and meaning of Christmas.

One time I was visiting family in a large, midwestern city over Thanksgiving, and the following day, the local TV news had several reporters on site at various malls, doing interviews with shoppers. They asked one guy what the 'true meaning of Christmas' was, and he said, "We gotta get out here and spend money to keep the economy going strong." I am not making this up; he actually said that.

I sometimes wish that they would come up with a different name for the year-end consumerist feeding-frenzy. Just leave Christmas out of it. Or, maybe we should come up with another name for the celebration of Christ's Birth and Incarnation. Let 'em have 'Christmas' for the 'shopping season' - admit that we've lost it, and start over with a new name.


Anyway, today is the First Sunday of Advent - the beginning of the Christian season of spiritual preparation for Christmas. As I've gone along, I've come to really love Advent, imperfectly though I may observe it. In rough terms, Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter, just with not quite the same 'penitential' emphasis. Rightly done, Advent is a time of contemplation, a time to step back from the normal frenzy of daily life, take a few deep breaths, and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas. Advent is pretty much the polar opposite of 'consumer Christmas'. Pausing for contemplation is not a thing Americans are terribly inclined to do (perhaps I should rather say it's a thing that we're inclined to do terribly).

In the larger American culture, the 'Christmas season' runs from the Friday after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, but in traditional Christian circles, the Christmas season begins on Christmas Day and runs until Epiphany (January 6) - thus, the 'Twelve Days of Christmas'. So, when most of our neighbors are finished with Christmas, we're just getting started. It always perplexes me just a bit to see all the Christmas trees out on the curb on the 26th; when Jen was a kid, Catholics didn't even put their trees up until Christmas Eve. And, just as I'm getting pumped to sing 'Joy to the World' and 'O Come, All Ye Faithful', most of my neighbors are sick of hearing them.

Maybe I should blame it on the Magi - they started the whole giving-gifts-at-Christmas thing. I doubt they had any clue how far it would get out-of-hand, though.

When it comes right down to it, though, I suppose I've got to admit that my spiritual preparation for Christmas is my own responsibility. It's not up to American culture to get me spiritually prepared. It might be nice if the culture were more supportive (or even just less disruptive) of what I'm trying to accomplish, but it is what it is.

So, our family is setting out on Advent. If, over the next few weeks, I seem a little reticent and low-key about Christmas, you'll understand, won't you? And then, if I'm getting all Christmas-y just when you're getting tired of it all, you'd be very kind to indulge me. In the meantime, I'll be over here, singing 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel', in a minor key. . .


  1. Maybe I'm finally getting the spiritual aspect of the season... and that kinda gives me an excuse for not being all kinds of antsy about putting up the outdoor lights

  2. Good to hear that your Thanksgiving celebration went well, ours did too.

    This year we are planning on buying gifts for some family (nieces and nephews) but everything else that we usually spend will go straight to flood victims to help buy construction materials and perhaps some small personal gifts for them.

    And I completely agree that it is well time that Christmas became X-mas so that Christians can restart with something just a wee bit more Christ centered. Make it so!

  3. glad thanksgiving went well. here's to time for contemplation during the mad rush around us.

  4. Sorry to hear about your sister's divorce, Craig. Glad you had an enjoyable time with family over the holidays. We've also had a run of good weather weekends here, of which I've been extremely thankful!

  5. Skip - See? The 'spiritual aspect' has all sorts of advantages.

    We've also considered exchanging gifts on Epiphany (which many of the 'Eastern' Christian traditions do), to take advantage of the after-Christmas clearance sales. . . ;)

    (Well, OK, not specifically for that reason, but it would be a nice corollary effect. . .)

    Xavier - I would if I could, bro. . .

    Lime - Hear, hear!

    Bijoux - It's actually been something of a point of pride among my sibs & me, that, even tho our family was formed out of the ashes of our parents' divorces, none of us have divorced. Until now. It's not final yet, so (without saying more than I should) we are still praying 'against all hope' for a reconciliation. . .

  6. I was rooting heavily for the Lions, but that game got out of hand rather quickly in the second quarter. Oh, well. They still might do something in the playoffs, if they make it and don't have too many suspensions and injuries...

  7. Hi, Suldog. Thanks for your support. . .

    Yeah, that game was all about the injuries and (forthcoming) suspensions. . . But like I said, probably the less said about it, the better. . .

    (*cough*Suh's-a-moron*cough*). . .

  8. yeah, on his good days he strives to reach moron-hood, true dat. Too bad, hate to see such incredible talent wasted on stupid.

  9. OK, Xavier; I said I didn't want to say much about it, but since you insist. . .

    I have generally been supportive of young Mr. Suh, and I think a lot of his alleged 'dirtiness' has been way overblown. He is a big, strong man, and when he hits people, they fall down, often harder than when they're hit by other men. . .

    Football is not a gentle game; it's a rough game, played most effectively by rough men. I don't have a problem with football players being rough, edgy, even mean and nasty. Heck, there's a certain art to 'getting inside the heads' of one's opponents, and intimidation can be part of that.

    But what you saw last Thursday (along with sundry helmet-removals over the past few months) was beyond 'edgy' or 'nasty'; it was plain dirty and cheap, and there's no defending it.

    And the heck of it is, that if you ever hear him speak off the field, he's one of the most pleasant, articulate people you'll ever see. . .

    I wouldn't say that his prodigious talent has been wasted. Yet. But it will be, if he doesn't figure out (and sooner is better than later) where the line is that he can't cross. . .

  10. Yeah, see, my Giants have experience with such a freak of nature, one Lawrence Taylor. He had similar problems initially but worked through his demons for the most part, at least on the field.

    The piece about Suh that is so glaring is that he took the step of having a 1-on-1 conversation with the head of the league, which seemed to be a mature action to take for one in his position. I was impressed, for a moment

    To follow that up by ratcheting things up rather than dialing 'em back? Well, that there says something entirely different about the man-boy.

  11. But at least with Suh, I don't feel like I have to keep my daughters away from him. . . at least, as far as I know. . .


  12. Touche', but then those things weren't true of LT when he was at Suh's career point.

    And, uh, I wouldn't let your daughter ride with Suh. Just saying.

    Wait, how'd we get on this? There's a Birthday celebration to prepare for and, you know, the guest of honor is kinda special! ;-)

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