Monday, December 3, 2012

It Came without Ribbons, Tags, Packages, Boxes, or Bags!

Consumed by consumerism? For the first time, I noticed the Black Friday sales began the night OF Thanksgiving this year! What??  Do we even have a chance to go around the table and share 'what we are thankful for', or enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie?  Corporate America anticipated that the bargain-hunting-masses would actually set out to Target, Best Buy, or Toys R Us, despite the post-Thanksgiving dinner-induced food coma? Don't get me wrong, I certainly appreciate a good bargain, but this holiday encroachment has officially gone too far.

It is a debate that dates back hundreds of years...The over-commercialism of Christmas.  The early Puritans and other religious organizations historically denounced the holiday, politicians and economists are still currently debating it, and of course as Nicole Winfield of The Huffington Post wrote in her 12/24/11 article, "Pope Benedict lamented that Christmas has become an increasingly commercial celebration that obscures the simplicity of the message of Christ's birth. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light" he said." to article as follows:

Accordingly, pop-culture has thrown its hat into the commercialization debate ring.  Introduced in 1965 as a prime-time TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas touches on this satirical theme and serves as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas: the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Even Dr. Seuss's Grinch discovered this reality (after his plan to stop Christmas from coming failed miserably) as he declared, "It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!...Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"  I think the Grinch is on to something.

It is easy to critique our culture and the over-commercialization of Christmas; it is quite another challenge frankly, to keep it at bay.  We easily become lured into endless gift-buying with the onslaught of catalogs, commercials, promotions, sales, for the countless PEOPLE in our lives with whom we wish to share something special.  Furthermore, as a parent of little ones, it is even MORE challenging to curb this consumerism, since the reminder of the 'Elf on the Shelf' (and his daily monitoring and reporting to Santa of who is naughty versus nice) is a powerful disciplinary tool during the Christmas season! Our children are constantly reminded that if they misbehave, they may end up on the naughty list and receive nothing more than the dreaded coal in their stocking.  So, they work hard to behave well (as reminded), so that Santa will fulfill their Christmas wishes, which (bless their hearts) are likely to include Thomas the Train or Spiderman, rather than world peace ; )

Of course, for those of us who are Christians, our intended focus is again, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  Without getting too 'preachy' here...we aim to enrich our faith with the season of Advent, the preparation for the "coming" of Christ, and the many surrounding traditions and services.  This is a season of increased prayer, fasting, and good works.  Perhaps the most important symbolic ritual is the Advent wreath.  The circular wreath shape with no beginning or end reflects God's love and his promise for eternal life. It is made of live greenery and has four candles, representing the four Sundays of the Advent Season.  The 1st, 2nd, and 4th week candles are purple and stand for penance, preparation, and sacrifice.  The 3rd week candle is pink, highlighting the "Gaudete Sunday", a celebration that our preparation is more than half-way complete.

I love the tradition reminder of using the Advent wreath every evening at dinnertime to say special prayers.  If we discuss the true meaning of Christmas each day, and thank God for our blessings, the inevitable over-commercialization of the season will hopefully be kept at bay.  Similarly, I like the idea of giving children only three gifts, as did the three Wise Men to baby Jesus.  Finally, this year, I plan to start a new tradition of giving four different types of gifts to those in need, during each of the four different weeks during Advent.  The first week we gathered toys, the second week books, the third week food, and the fourth week will be service.  Hopefully the rotation of these gifts to those in need will help to keep our focus during the Advent season.

Note to self for future reference: Donation/Recipients during Advent were as follows:

Week 1, Toys - The Blessing House, toys/household goods collected for children's crisis care center, temporary home for kids in need due to emergencies/other adversities.
Week 2, Books - Ruffing Book Drive, books collected for sick children at Metro Hospital in Cleveland
Week 3, Food - Ruffing 8th Grade Food Drive, food collected for residents/guests of Malachi House, home for the dying poor in Cleveland
Week 4, Service - TBD

"And what happened then...? Well, in Who-ville they say, that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight, he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light, and he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he...HE HIMSELF...! The Grinch carved the roast beast!"

The above info is obtained from catholiceducation. org, link and excerpt provided below...

"On one hand, the faithful reflect back and are encouraged to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s first coming into this world. We ponder again the great mystery of the incarnation when our Lord humbled Himself, taking on our humanity, and entered our time and space to free us from sin. On the other hand, we recall in the Creed that our Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead and that we must be ready to meet Him.

A good, pious way to help us in our Advent preparation has been the use of the Advent wreathe. (Interestingly, the use of the Advent wreathe was borrowed from the German Lutherans in the early 1500s.) The wreathe is a circle, which has no beginning or end: So we call to mind how our lives, here and now, participate in the eternity of God’s plan of salvation and how we hope to share eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The wreathe is made of fresh plant material, because Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death, and resurrection. Three candles are purple, symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle symbolizes the same but highlights the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because our preparation is now half-way finished.

The light represents Christ, who entered this world to scatter the darkness of evil and show us the way of righteousness. The progression of lighting candles shows our increasing readiness to meet our Lord. Each family ought to have an Advent wreathe, light it at dinner time, and say the special prayers. This tradition will help each family keep its focus on the true meaning of Christmas. In all, during Advent we strive to fulfill the opening prayer for the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent: “Father in Heaven, ... increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of His coming may find us rejoicing in His presence and welcoming the light of His truth.”

No comments:

Post a Comment