I was out walking Sebastian this morning and a jogger stopped to say thanks to the Church for keeping Christmas alive throughout the Christmas seasons. “I can’t believe how many trees I’ve already seen on the devil strip!”
On the other hand, Sebastian was in need of a long walk last night after my duties were done and so we took a long night walk and I was very proud of my neighborhood as the number of lights and trees that we did see gave testimony that there are still some people out there who get it.
My jogging friend (who is always great for giving me things about which to mull over) said, “Christmas should be more like art. The muse gives you inspiration and you contemplate the work, then you have the gift as the art is brought to life, and then you live in the presence.”
That is an apt expression of the Church’s liturgical life during this season. Advent is the time to anticipate. The Gift comes on Christmas day, and then we live in the presence of Christmas until the Baptism of the Lord when His public ministry begins.
As a society though, we eat most of the sugar first (trees, decorations, lights, good, parties,) have a duller moment of gift, and then are ready to go on a diet once the actual Christmas season begins.
Does this not seem to mimic how society celebrates married life? Traditionally it’s, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the couple with the baby carriage.” But very often today first comes the sugar: living together and practicing married life without being in the season of marriage. Then there is the duller moment of gift - there will be no firsts. Besides the exchange of vows, life will continue as it did the month before with possible exception of a change in name. Than it’s back to life as usual.
I think there is something to be said for delayed satisfaction. (It's no guarantee mind you, but I believe the odds are in its favor.): The season of anticipation, hoping, dreaming, longing - terrible, terrible longing. The gift then is so much sweater! At last! Relief! Satisfaction! Satiation! And THEN we settle in for an extra long season of living in the presence. Of gratefulness.