We’re barely into Advent and already the airwaves are flooded with holly jolly Holiday songs, enticing us to gear up for the greatest Christmas ever. Have you noticed all the commercials sprinkled (more like globbed) in between the songs?
Of course, you know that’s no accident. Both the advertizers and the radio stations want to get us thinking about things. Not the celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord things, not Nativity things, but thing things as in spend a ton of money, wrap them all up and impress somebody with them things. You know, things.
They want us to think that we need these things, that the holly jolliness of ours and everybody else’s holiday depends on these things. They want to convince us that without these things, we’ll have the worst Christmas ever – a sad, empty glut of time with no hope, no happiness, no jingle bells.
They don’t want us to think about how we are attached to these things. They don’t want us to consider why we do or do not need them, and what bearing they have on our joy over the birth of our Lord Jesus. They don’t want us to consider that Jesus was born more than 2000 years ago and will be born again in our hearts on Christmas Day whether or not there ever was a Christmas present in the history or future of mankind.
The ring-jing-jingling is so widespread and prevalent that it’s truly hard to resist at this time of year. No matter where we turn there are messages about the things that we need, the things that we want, and the things that we really don’t need but feel like we should need because someone keeps telling us that we should. The lights, the music, the images that are simply inescapable at this time of year all claw at our hearts and minds, trying to tear us away from the Christ Child and his message of salvation.
It takes a real act of heroism to resist these trends and temptations and to submerge ourselves in the spirit of Advent. What I mean by heroism is this: We need to strive to be attached to created things, especially at this time of year, in such a way that we become indifferent to them. This means being inwardly independent of things and, if need be, externally independent of them. It means having both independence and enjoyment of the things of this world such as is pleasing to God.
Look at our Lord’s life. As the God-Man he lived a life of poverty, humility, and purity. In regard to possessions, he was poor. In regard to pleasure, he was crucified. In regard to honor, he was despised. Do you remember what he said about the foxes and birds? He said, “The foxes have lairs, the birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of has nowhere to lay his head.” (Mt 8:20) Indeed, when the King of Glory came to earth he was placed in a manger in a cold, damp Bethlehem cave. This was no accident.
Notice also, though, that Jesus did enjoy the things of this world in proper perspective. He ate, he drank, he had friends, he rested, he appreciated the created things around him. At the same time, he was able to let go of them at any moment should the heavenly Father command it.
That’s the attitude, that’s the heroic attachment for which we strive during this Advent season. The glitz and glitter are beautiful, and the gifts are very nice. Decorations help to lighten our demeanor, and the songs lift our spirits. But only in so much as they add to the joy that we experience at the realization that our Lord and Savior came to earth to become one of us so that we could gain eternal salvation. We can’t allow ourselves to need them. We can’t allow ourselves to be sucked into the fanfare and hoopla that will draw us away from a deeper understanding and reverence for the Incarnation. We want to think, not about thing things, but about the things that really matter.
This Advent I have a special wish for you: Appreciate things for exactly what they are – things. Then be filled with joy and have yourself an heroic little Christmas.