Hallo again to all.
The days are getting shorter and the weather blusterier in our part of the world. We are well into the academic year, for those for whom that sort of thing matters, but not quite to winter's official start. Christmas music has been slowly finding its way onto the airwaves for over a month, and stores are already overrun with Christmas decorations and toys. This is nothing new, of course. Since the Victorian era (at least) the retail industry has started Christmas in early autumn, encouraging shoppers 'For the Sake of Humanity, Shop Early' and avoid the 11th hour rush even in 1912.*
We've been told all of our lives that in Advent we're supposed to wait, contemplate, pray, and 'feel increasingly Christmas-y'. This reminder is a bit hard to grapple with when Christmas is thrust upon as early as Remembrance Day, taking over some stores even before Halloween. It creates an undue burden of trying to feel decidedly un-Christmas-y, and in fact quite All-Saint's Day-y without being a Humbug.
As we wrote last year, 'Advent is not a time for us to get ready for Christmas. It is a time for us to push the secular as far to the side of our lives as we can manage, to clear our faith back to pure essentials. And then wait.' But what about before Advent? This year we found ourselves hunting for Advent wreaths and looking at Advent Calendars† before Remembrance Day was upon us. In learning new music for Advent and starting hand made holiday gifts, November has somehow turned into a time of preparation for the time of preparation. Rather than wishing we could keep Christmas where it ought to be, we feel a need to keep Advent where it ought to be—that is after Stir-Up Sunday/Christ the King—and Christmas thereafter.
And really, what is the dash? Have we not been waiting since the feast of the Annunciation in March for this birth? Or are we, like many who are awaiting the birth of a child, rushing to help the parents finish the nursery long before the child is due to be born, rather than seeing what needs to be done. Enjoying the quiet, enjoying the space that the season of Advent—and Christmas will fill. Perhaps forcing ourselves to wait, slogging through weeks of ordinary time and pausing in the autumn is what's missing.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1833)
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them—
The summer flowers depart—
Sit still—as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.
How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.
The dearest hands that clasp our hands,
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come—as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.
Hear not the wind—view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill—
In spring, the sky encircled them—
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe—come winter’s cold
Come change —and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.
It will soon be time to light the advent wreath, pray the O Antiphons, to shop for Christmas trees, and to wrap gifts, until then, we will keep enjoying the last few weeks of Ordinary time, the meandering parables and oddly picked hymns, enjoying the falling leaves, and soft breezes, changing weather, and slow wander towards Christ's birth.
See you next week.