Ad­vent and Black Fri­day

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Once again Black Fri­day has ex­posed the ugly side of Amer­ica. Ev­ery year on the Fri­day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing stores give huge dis­counts, lure shop­pers in, and kick off the Christ­mas sea­son by sell­ing so much mer­chan­dise that the stores are able to “ be in the black.” (Does any­one see the irony here? Thanks­giv­ing has to do with be­ing grate­ful for what you have; the shop­ping lust has to do with not be­ing sat­is­fied with what you have — like a child say­ing, “thank you” one mo­ment, and then “give me more” the next.)

This year the Black Fri­day story comes out of Idaho. A mall in Boise opened at 1 a. m., of­fer­ing free gift bags to the first 500 cus­tomers. Ten thou­sand peo­ple showed up and con­verged on the doors as they opened. Peo­ple were tram­pled, in­clud­ing one preg­nant wo­man. Prop­erty man­ager, Darcy Shippy, said, “ We just didn’t an­tic­i­pate the crowd be­ing quite so pushy.” What else can you ex­pect when Christ­mas has be­come noth­ing more than an ex­cuse to buy stuff?

Dave Barry wrote, “The Hol­i­day Sea­son is a deeply re­li­gious time that each of us ob­serves, in his own way, by go­ing to the mall of his choice.”

There is a bet­ter way. Re­mem­ber the end of the Dr. Seuss clas­sic, “How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas.” The Grinch has stolen the tree, the food and all the presents that the Whos had pre­pared for Christ­mas. But to his sur­prise, the Whos still gather to sing joy­fully on Christ­mas morn­ing.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puz­zling and puz­zling, how could it be so? It came with­out rib­bons. It came with­out tags. It came with­out pack­ages, boxes or bags. And he puz­zled and puz­zled ‘ till his puz­zler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of some­thing he hadn’t be­fore. What if Christ­mas, he thought, doesn’t come from a

store? What if Christ­mas, per­haps, means a lit­tle bit more?”

Christ­mas is not about presents but about pres­ence. Re­mem­ber, “ Christ­mas” means “ Christ’s Mass.” It is not about what we give; it is about whom God has given to us. What if the weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas were not counted as shop­ping days, but as days an­tic­i­pat­ing the cel­e­bra­tion of the in­car­na­tion? Then you would call it Ad­vent.

In the Mid­dle Ages there was a cus­tom of pre­par­ing a room of state for the ap­pear­ance of roy­alty by the hang­ing of or­na­ments and ban­ners called para­ments.

This Sun­day is the first Sun­day of the Ad­vent and many churches across Amer­ica will be chang­ing their para­ments. The new color will be pur­ple or blue, the color of roy­alty, for the com­ing of the King of Kings. Sig­nif­i­cantly, th­ese are the same col­ors are used in the sea­son of Lent. It is a re­minder that the love of Christ was costly.

Here is a poem for Ad­vent, writ­ten in Latin by an anony­mous 12th Cen­tury monk and trans­lated into English by John Neale.

“ O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ran­som cap­tive Is­rael, that mourns in lonely ex­ile here, un­til the Son of God ap­pear. Re­joice! Re­joice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Is­rael.”

“ O come, De­sire of na­tions, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; bid Thou our sad di­vi­sions cease, and be Thy­self our King of Peace. Re­joice! Re­joice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Is­rael.”

John Donaldson

Colum­nist

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