Mixing it Up
There are presents to buy (because, let's face it, shopping during the Twelve Days of Christmas just doesn't work for many of us), homes to decorate (even if we don't decorate until Christmas Eve - we have to get the stuff out of the attic and set aside the time), parties to attend, etc.
Last month when I was in Manhattan, I visited the beautiful St Thomas Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue. As I walked up the steps, I saw this! What looks like bright lights inside the narthex and a neon character that looks like a present with arms, eyes, and a Christmas hat waving at me!
Is that the light of Christ shining through?
No, it was a reflection of the Fendi and Tommy Hilfiger stores across the street in the glass doors. But that's what it feels like to me during this season: reverence and holy awe sprinkled with dancing packages and flashing lights.
As much as I might decry the overcommercialization of Christmas, businesses depend on people spending. It's no wonder they try to extend the season as long as they can and employ whatever eye- or ear-catching means they can. Many of us learn to deflect their efforts, but sooner or later, most of us do have to engage in the busy-ness of getting ready for guests, for meals, for parties, for gift-giving even while we are singing our Advent hymns and reading Advent reflections.
And yes, sometimes it even gets in to the church, that busy-ness and flashy stuff.
I'm ok with that. We Christians say we live in two worlds, and never is that more evident that in the waning days of Advent. We are not called to live in isolation but to live in this world as witnesses to what God has done and is doing and will do. It's not easy to do that (living in isolation would take away the distractions and temptations, sure, but with a few exceptions, that's not the calling most of us have), to keep our focus amid the temptations and, equally importantly, to look at the world and see that joy and wonder might well be found in unusual places. (See, e.g., the Birth of Jesus).
Here's a shot of the stores across the street: