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Santa and twee canesHallo again to all.

This week we find ourselves thinking about Advent and the secularisation of Christmas, and about an idea for recovering Advent from the commercial onslaught of this season.

If you've ventured outside your home and your church this week, you've probably encountered Christmas decorations, Christmas music, and other Christmas marketing. Many large shops are festooned with the trappings of 'The Christmas Season'. Though they may differ in whether they show a reindeer, a koala, or a moose wearing a red and white hat, the principle seems to be the same: whip the holiday-conscious public into a frenzy of buying, so that they can demonstrate their 'holiday spirit' by giving expensive gifts.

And Jesus wept.

Before getting on to the point, we'd like to remind you of the Buy Nothing Christmas movement. Although begun by Canadian Mennonites, its message and value seem global. We have printed and distributed a number of their posters.

It's a waste of time to fight popular culture. If large shops start putting up Christmas decorations in the middle of October, there's really not a lot we can say or do to stop it or change it. We can't change what the shopkeepers do, but we could change what we do if that would accomplish anything.Angel, not twee

Tonight we were sitting in a restaurant, hearing Christmas carols in the background, looking at Christmas decorations hanging from the walls and ceiling and windows, looking at the special Christmas placemats, and realised that not one whit of it had anything to do with Christ. The music was about sleigh bells and candy canes. The decorations were bells and greenery. The placemats said 'Happy Holidays'.

So many times in the past we've grumbled to ourselves that the commercialisation of Christmas is squeezing out Advent. Who will sing Advent carols or be pensive about the coming of the Christ Child when the outdoor music is 'Good King Wenceslas'? Tonight we realised that, for us, the hypercommercialisation is doing a good job of helping make room for Advent. In the midst of all of the frenzy of Christmas--nay, in spite of all of the frenzy of Christmas--Christ is coming.

We are mulling over several ideas for symbolic Advent acts this year. For example, we've thought about waiting until December 24 and then hanging religious ornaments on the tree in the lobby of the office building, which currently sports peppermint canes, bells, sleighs, and round glass balls. We've suggested to our friends with young children, who feel peer pressure to put up the family Christmas decorations this week, that they divide the decoration ceremonies into two parts, secular and sacred. The glass balls and reindeer go on the Christmas tree this week; the angels and baby-in-a-manger and Star of Bethlehem are added on the 24th before bedtime, explicitly dividing the rituals into holiday rituals and Christmas rituals.

The waiting and brooding that defines Advent is not an event; it's a prayer, a state of mind, an emptiness. Besides Advent music, there's no easy way to symbolise it. But we can certainly develop rituals, for the end of Advent, that symbolise the end of Advent, the end of the waiting, the coming of Christ.

See you next week. We'll wait.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 5 December 2004

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