I risked my life to bring you this picture from a local big box today...but I didn't buy anything!
It is Friday now. Thanksgiving--with its own rituals of excess--is behind us and I am looking forward to Advent. Today we will go shopping, but not in the way that you might think. No door busters for us! Instead we are buying from local retailers. We do this for a number of reasons. Some of them are fairly conceptual and life-styley. We want to support local businesses and the local economy, for example. Some are less so. My mother-in-law and the college boys are here for the weekend so we need to get out of the house. Since hiking is out for a number of reasons, patronizing used-book stores is a nice way to spend time together.
However, for me, there is also a general darkness to the day. I guess that is what I really wanted to mention. You can count me among the people who struggle not to get depressed during the holidays. The culturally enforced frivolity can be rough for many people. I am one of them. Like most folks, I try to keep with the breathtakingly saccharine "holiday spirit" but sometimes--frequently in fact--I fall short. Do you know what never snaps me out of my holiday blues? Perky people telling me to cheer up.
Another weight on the season is from all the commercial "requirements". For the last couple of decades, after all, there is a narrative that tells us it is actually unpatriotic to choose not to shop to excess. December, itself, has become a season where our financial stress is viewed as a worthy sacrifice to the nation. Anyway, when you combine that with the natural ups and downs of life, it is easy to see how what--in easier times--might be a minor emotional bump in the road cant escalate to an existential black hole.
From the outside looking in, it may appear to be a weird situation for a pastor. Of course...it isn't. Many of my colleagues are the same way. We aren't actually responsible for secular Christmas, We are responsible for the other one that starts later and then gets overwhelmed. That would be the season that is spiritual--whether it is religious or not--but that is also more gradual as it follows the rhythms of our human lives in relationship with the Earth. That relationship pre-dates any of the current winter festivals, yet exists within all of them. In addition, part of our job is to sit with other people's feelings. A lot of folks are struggling with the unsustainable nature of the next few weeks. We experience their emotions as well.
I don't think anyone at my congregation would be surprised to know this about me. After all, there is what the deacons sometimes (affectionately) refer to as the "Adam Hates Christmas" sermon that happens at some point each year. I don't hate Christmas (not all of it anyway) but I do feel like it is overblown for reasons that don't have much to do with the themes of light in the darkness and the power of the human spirit to prevail in hard times. I am not a "keep Christ in Christmas" kinda guy. I just want everyone to calm the heck down and pace themselves. I also want to pace myself and come out the other end of this time with my spirits intact, able to look back and tell myself that it was a good holiday season.
Anyway, here is a video of me tell people to calm down that I put up right before Thanksgiving. Good luck to you all this weekend. May however you greet the coming Advent be the way you want to greet it.