While the West Disregards Christmas, Dare to Celebrate Advent
Look for opportunities to live Advent with joyful expectation.
I am a native of the Archdiocese of Washington, having lived in Prince George’s County (part of whose western border comprises Washington, DC’s eastern border) for my entire life. As such, I have grown up in the midst of the political backdrop of the capital of the world’s most powerful nation. Washingtonians and suburban Marylanders eat, drink and breathe with some semblance of political pretension, and this makes a curious scenario when it comes to being a person of faith in an increasingly secular society. Yet, this observation is not a consideration of political affiliation per se; rather, the matter is that we Catholics are now celebrating Advent at a time when many developed Western nations steadily ignore the contributions of Christianity at all, let alone acknowledge the ultimate meaning of Christmas. In other words, if the West disregards Christmas, then it inherently has no time to provide Advent with its due regard.
Recently, the Archdiocese of Washington had to take legal action against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA [known to us locals as the “Metro”]) after Metro turned down the Archdiocese’s paid advertisement for their annual “Find the Perfect Gift” evangelization initiative held each Advent. At the risk of being terse, one can deduce that the campaign commits the “offense” of portraying Christmas as too, well... religious. Subsequently, tinsel, green and red bows, and Rudolph are allowed, but the birthday boy must be out of sight and out of mind at his own [approximately] two thousand and seventeenth birthday. Bah, humbug! You can find more details about the situation via the Archdiocese of Washington’s press release of November 28, 2017, and via this same-day coverage by Kevin Jones at the Catholic News Agency here: “What are banned from DC buses? Catholic Christmas ads.”
Perhaps we never realized that we would live in a time when [what should be] the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world would become so commercialized that the only acceptable practice of Christmas is one that has effectively returned it to its pagan pretensions, complete with self-absorption, consumerism, materialism, and actual loneliness. What is the best way for us Catholics to turn back this tide, and bring joy and reverence back to what could be envisioned as the “holy day” season? To help others “find the perfect gift” by taking Advent more seriously ourselves. To celebrate Advent is to say that we have hope to bring. As we await the birth of the Christ-Child, the Incarnation of God himself, we can only likewise hope that the example that we share is one that inspires the world to slow down, look around, and realize that it is in Christ’s entry into the world that we encounter enduring peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
Look for opportunities to live Advent with piety, with joyful expectation, and with a willingness to hope and pray for others to find the same value in Christmas as every Catholic ideally does. At a minimum, take part in some of the numerous opportunities to celebrate Advent, particularly as a family. Of course, we need to strengthen the family in order to more greatly reflect the sanctity embodied by the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – a model that we shall not be able to emulate, but that still serves as the archetype for which we strive. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers various resources here. Are you living Advent in such a way that the world looks at you and asserts “I want to live the true meaning of Christmas as well”? ‘Tis the season for Catholics around the globe – perhaps especially in the despair-ridden West – to propose the sacred as a charitable alternative to the vapid. Let us look forward to the Love (cf. 1 John 4:8) that arrived in human form so long ago in the outskirts of the city in which he was ordained to die around 33 years later and soon thereafter rise to new life, offering us the hope of salvation in the process. Happy Advent (it is justifiably so)!