I am not anti-Christmas by any means. We celebrate the sublime mystery of the birth of the Son of God. As the Book of Wisdom so eloquently points out:
For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, 15 thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior 16 carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth. 17
This august mystery we remember with beauty and solemnity on the night of December 24th and carry it through for eight days and then, depending on the liturgical calendar, for nearly two weeks.
Unfortunately, the secular world jumps the proverbial gun, celebrating one of the most sacred times of the year several weeks, if not months, too early. A friend of mine lamented on Facebook that one of the radio stations in California has already begun playing Christmas carols. Sirius XM's Holly Channel is already blaring out Christmas music. Our local NBC affiliate hosted a live broadcast welcoming Santa's arrival in front of Macy's.
Now, I understand that retailers need to generate a huge buzz so that they can make the sales. My father was a retailer for nearly 30 years. Retail put food on our table, gave us a roof over our heads and paid for my Catholic school education. But, even as a child, I remember that the "holiday buying season" did not begin until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Christmas decorations went up at that time. Now, it seems that Christmas, at least from the secular standpoint, competes for real estate with Halloween. Thanksgiving isn't even on people's radar screens, insofar as decorations and marketing are concerned.
Sadly, this secular cultural aspect has even infiltrated the Church. A dear priest friend of mine throws, in the words of the great Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a "spittle feckled nutty" every time he hears Christmas music played on the local Catholic radio station during Advent. Brides planning their weddings during Advent ask the parish priest if the Christmas tree will be up, not realizing that such decorations are not proper to the liturgical season. Sadly, there have been a couple of parishes that, on the first weekend of Advent, already have the Christmas trees lit up, completely dwarfing the Advent wreath. It's enough to transform me into a liturgical Grumpy Cat and cough up a few hairballs.
The Church is supposed to transform the culture, not be transformed by it. In the midst of the tempest that is the holiday shopping season, the Barque of St. Peter, through a proper celebration of the season of Advent, is supposed to give us a safe harbor from all of the madness at the malls and shopping centers. Advent is a time of joyful, yet penitent, reflection as we prepare for the two-fold coming of Christ, first as infant and then as just Judge. Yet, it is hard to get that sense of the beauty of the Advent season when one walks into a parish that looks like Charlie Brown's worst commercialized Christmas nightmare.
I am not saying that we should parade around with perpetual frowns like Grumpy Liturgical Cats. However, we should do our best to give witness to the real meanings of the seasons of Advent and Christmas. Parents need to talk to their children about Advent and teach them that while the Malls and the media claim it's Christmas time, it really is not. We cannot and should not let secular culture dictate to us when we should celebrate our sacred liturgical seasons.
Although we are nearing the end of the Year of Faith, that does not mean that our evangelization efforts should cease. It means, rather, that we must continue to evangelize, even if it means starting with our own. Only then, can we reclaim both Advent and Christmas.