Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Let the insanity begin!

December 2, 2007
First Sunday of Advent

Mass Readings:
Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:37-44

Here we go! The shopping malls already look like one of Dante's circles of hell! The parties, the stress, the over eating, over spending, etc., etc., etc... Merry Christmas! Before I go any further, I need to confess something, I really, really struggle with Christmas. It isn't because of all the extra work. I struggle because I am very uncomfortable with what is expected of us at Christmas. I mean all of us. We are expected to join in the insanity of the consumerism of Christmas.

At Halloween I noticed that Christmas stuff was already hitting the shelves. Go into the store, buy a Jack-O-Lantern and a $1 figurine of the baby Jesus! I thought for a moment my head was going explode. And there is even an ad by one of the "big box" stores that proclaims their sale prices are more satisfying than world peace!! Again, I thought my head was going to explode! I haven't seen that ad again so I am hoping people jammed their complaint lines!

And, like clockwork, the jabbering cable news heads began their search for, insert ominous drum-roll, "The War on Christmas"! Oh yeah. That time of year again for some folk to try and score viewer ratings by proclaiming that there is a "War on Christmas". So, is there a "War on Christmas"? You bet there is. Who is waging this "War on Christmas"? Christians! That's who! You heard me. I believe that there is a "War on Christmas" and it was started and is sustained by Christians. I will explain my thoughts in a moment.

The Season of Advent is about Hope. Brilliantly, Pope Benedict released on Friday his second Encyclical Letter entitled "Spe Salvi". It is a document that calls us to Hope! We are saved by Hope in Christ! You can read the document and download it at usccb.org.

Hope. We are a people who desperately need Hope. Adrian Nossest O.S.B, once wrote these words, "Our world is a sad place; it seems to be without hope, precisely because its crisis is a crisis of faith and love". When we give into despair, we lose hope. When we lose sight of hope, we turn to false gods. I believe that we have lost the message of Advent and especially Christmas because we have turned to the false gods of consumerism. More on that in a minute.

The first week of Advent calls us to Watch and Pray. What are we waiting for and praying for? The fulfillment of our hope in Christ when he will return to bring us the fullness of joy and usher us into his Father's heavenly kingdom! How do we look forward? We remember the past. We remember Christ's first coming as a human being. Christ the child who took on human form and was born in a manger to a virgin and protected by his adopted father. This child became our Hope!

So how do we remember and celebrate the promise of our salvation through the Christ Child? Well we rush out on Black Friday and weeks after so that we can gorge ourselves on trinkets that are made in sweat shops by slave labor and worse of all, child labor! Oh yeah, Jesus is the reason for the season. We celebrate Jesus' birth by hording items made at the expense of the poor. I am sure Jesus is so proud.

Sorry. I should have given a hard cynicism warning!

But I am being serious. I was in a store the other day and 99% of the items I looked at were made in countries with proven track records of using the poor in slave like conditions and even children to make the products that we will consume in order to celebrate the Birth of our Lord. That my friends is the true "War on Christmas"!

How can we proclaim a message of hope when we ourselves are contributing to the loss of hope for so many of the poor of the world? Advent and Christmas should be about restoring hope and giving freely the love of Christ that he has so abundantly given to each of us! Hope is about transforming the world into the image of Christ! The love that propelled Jesus to become human so that we might have the fullness of life, should be the force that propels us to celebrate in a way that points to Jesus the Christ! Instead, I fear that the buying and selling of products that create misery for so many is almost the sole focus. Even the "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" banners are made in countries that promote the deliberate destruction of life! The "War on Christmas" is being fought and it is at the hands of Christians.

I know that this homily may be dark. That is not my intent. My intent is to try and lead us to a celebration of the Birth of our Lord that gives life to all. We are called to watch and pray. We watch and pray for the celebration of Christmas when we give thanks and worship the Christ Child. Then we watch and pray for the return of our Lord and we strive to be found deserving of the Lord's great gift of life!

If we start looking now at how we celebrate the birth of our Lord, maybe we can change our habits and truly proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season. Let us celebrate the fact that Jesus' birth is the source of life and hope. Let us celebrate with deeds of love and charity not just in December but 365 days a year. Let us celebrate in a way that supports and nourishes one another in the life of faith.

When Jesus returns, we will not meet him with our trinkets made in sweatshops in the Third World. We will face Jesus alone, with how we have lived our life for him and our brothers and sisters. Let us live a life that proclaims hope and life to all. Let us labor so that those who are oppressed may know the Good News of Christmas, that Jesus is the reason for our joy! Let us turn away form the insanity of the consumer Christmas and instead turn to a celebration of Christmas that is about restoring hope and striving to transform instead of consume.

If we believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, then let us celebrate the season with lives modeled on the sacrifice of Christ. Let us celebrate a season of life instead of consuming. Let us celebrate with doing good deeds, the giving of alms, the restoration of hope and faith!

Let us proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord! That my friends, is the reason for the season.