Without the calendar, and especially the Church calendar, we would be hard pressed to know the beginning of Advent. As the commercialization of Christmas has increased, the start of the season has become an artificial demarcation. The start of the ‘holiday season’ creeps further back on the pages of the calendar, with some outlets beginning to display the colors and icons of Christmas around the end of October. Thanksgiving becomes a speed-bump in the path of the gift-rush steamroller.
These false signs have an effect on us. Few are moved to shop anymore simply by the appearance of red and green replacing the oranges, auburns and browns of autumn. Fewer still see these signs as a welcome reminder of the joy of Christmas. Our senses are dulled by the barrage, hardened because of the attempted to deceit, temporarily blinded by the fast-cut commercials and blinking LED reindeer noses.
Advent is the Church’s reminder of the Kingdom that came and makes it dwelling amongst us. Our reading for this year comes first from Saint Luke. The doctor records the Lord’s insistence that we be ever watchful for signs of the kingdom. He gave the analogy of the trees, say “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.” (vv 29b-30) Likewise, He explained, if we are watchful and knowledgeable about the signs of an impending change in the season of our relationship with Him, we will not be caught unaware.
The world threatens to dull our sensitivity to the signs of the Kingdom. Whether it be God speaking to us through another person, a book or the movement of the leaves in the trees, the noise and busyness of our lives can drown out that quiet voice. Other signs are hidden from us as our vision tires from the constant stream of images we take in, good and bad. Without seeing the signs, our ability to raise our hands in celebration is limited.
Let us quiet our celebration this year. Spend some time looking into the flickering Advent flame rather than the Christmas lights. Reread favorite Scriptures and listen for the voice of God. When we see and hear clearly, our chances of noticing the signs of the Kingdom around us increase tenfold. Seek out and praise the Lord for the intimacy of His presence in your life.
Grace and peace to you.
image Per Ola Wilberg