04 December 2011

Advent: The most sacramental season

Taking his cue from Charlie Brown's excellent question, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?", Stephen P. White views Advent as "the most sacramental season":
And isn’t that precisely what Advent is about? If the run-up to Christmas draws our materialism into the open, isn’t that good? If Advent makes us reflect, even out of frustration, on what Christmas is all about, then Advent is doing what Advent is supposed to do: pointing us to the Mystery of the Incarnation in the Nativity of our Savior. And that’s why I say Advent is the most sacramental season, even in our secularized society.

Is there any other time of year when our culture, for all its many faults and sins, at least acts as though things bear significance and meaning beyond their own utility? We surround ourselves with symbols and signs: trees and lights, holly and wreaths. We sing carols and tell stories (or watch them . . . sometimes the same ones, over and over and OVER again.) We prepare special foods that we’d otherwise never eat. We give gifts.

Perhaps most telling, at no other time of year is our culture so concerned with preserving traditions; an implicit admission that beneath all the consumerism and commercialism remains the conviction that there is something deeper still – a persistent truth – toward which all this stuff points. We remain convinced, like Charlie Brown, that as Christmas approaches we’re supposed to feel a certain way – that we’re meant to be happy, even joyful,in response to . . . well . . . to something. And as fickle as “feelings” can be, they are not nothing. Even the most obstinate pagan can feel wistful at year’s end.

So let’s not absolve our culture of its vulgarities. But let’s do remember that there is much in this season of anticipation that resonates deeply with our culture even as it contradicts some of our less noble inclinations. As people concerned with spreading the Good News, this should be a consolation to us; an incentive to redouble our efforts. Above all, let us not forget that this is a season of hope precisely because of the darkness of our sin [more].

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