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A reflection for Advent: Recovering the shock of Christmas

The themes of Advent are in sharp contrast to the bustle and spending of Christmas.

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Some years ago, during Advent, I overheard a mother saying to another in the supermarket line: “It’s a shame. These people dragging religion into Christmas and spoiling it for the children!” And it’s understandable! The themes of Advent are in sharp contrast to the bustle and spending of Christmas.

The problem is that Christmas has lost its shock value. One of the great purposes of Advent is to help us recover that shock. What do you think was the hardest thing to believe for the early Christians? The shocking truth that everybody matters. You matter! What is the most real thing about you? The most real thing about you is that you are loved! The good news is that there is one human family and each one of us matters. St. Irenaeus tells us: “There is one human race wherein the mysteries of god are fulfilled.” But the misdiagnosis—particularly poignant at Christmas with all that shopping!—of who we are, diminishes us. We are not essentially consumers, but adored creatures designed for communion with God and with each other. And as for gifts this year, God’s own first gift to us is our own fragile self.

Alan Jones, “Asking for a Sign,” in Goodness and Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, edited by Michael Leach, James Keane, and Doris Goodnough (Orbis Books)

Reflection questions:

Has the “buy buy buy” mentality of the holiday season made Christmas lose its shock value for you? This Advent, how can you work to recover that shock?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016