There is something forlorn about Halloween decorations still hanging around in December. We look at such a place and can only wonder if the owner left town hurriedly. Or that he or she turned seriously ill, and may be lying in a hospital somewhere. Or perhaps the owner is just lazy and out of touch.
For sure, their once proud décor is not in the spirit of the season. That last instance is precisely what the Church looks like every Advent, when she directs the priest to wear purple, and use the same color for the sanctuary adornment. Then there is the recommended absence of flowers. “What is going on?” we might ask, as we see the rest of the world is festooned with red and green, and is “jingle belling” itself into a shopping spree and a partying marathon?
The simple answer is that the Church believes in a period of penance and fasting before the feast. Those are too ancient and time-tested ways to get ready for a major religious celebration. The people of Italian descent among us try to do the same with their “Feast of the Seven Fishes” but it strikes me that they have waited too long and try to condense a whole month of prep into one evening of December 24.
Obviously, as a Church founded by a Person who was from childhood a “Sign of Contradiction,” she will reflect the Founder in her liturgy and customs. We Catholics are more and more conscious of the conflict we have with our present society when we see so many former aberrations that have been adopted and labelled “the new normal.” Just think of the crazy things our legislators have done in the matter of public restrooms.
During these early weeks of Advent, the Church asks us to think forward and consider the Second Coming of Christ. That is when this world, as we know it, will come to an end and then each of us will be judged. Judged on how much we loved God and neighbor. This is a serious matter because it involves our eternal future. Eternity, they have told me, is a very long time! Let’s face it. We would rather not think about such things.
We’d rather turn our attention instead to cozy thoughts of the Babe in the manger. Those many artists employed by the Christmas card makers have given us the bluish moonlight shining on a Nativity scene. Or, that inviting den with a fire glowing and stockings hung on the mantle. Sometimes a cute kitten playing with ribbon gets added. “So nice!” we think. But Advent doesn’t leave us alone with our sweet reveries.
It shakes our shoulders and says: “Wake up Christian! Don’t you realize that this place isn’t your real home and that someday you’ll have to leave here to go there? So you better watch out and you better not pout because He’s coming to town. I mean Jesus of course.
There’s a Second Coming of Christ and you’d better live rightly and justly. As you celebrate the anniversary of the First Coming, which is a fine thing to do because it reminds us of God’s great love for us, just keep in mind that Second One!