Posts Tagged ‘Advent’

Post-Thanksgiving Malaise / Pre-Christmas Blues

December 1, 2008

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I finally woke up from my turkey and pie lethargy yesterday morning.  Two days of continued post-Thanksgiving gluttony went by in a blur of drowsiness, TV watching and general indolence.  Thank goodness for having to drag my lazy arse to church on Sunday morning. 

I have never been one for the “thrill” of getting up at 4:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving to sit out in the cold waiting for Circuit City or Macy’s to open, and then push and shove (or actually trample) people to get inside the doors.  So having avoided the crowds for Black Friday, I actually went to Super Target yesterday afternoon.  I  was going to buy new lunch boxes for my sons, whose old lunch boxes had become too torn and impossibly unsanitary to pack with food.   I did also buy one big box of plain Legos as a Christmas present for my 6 year old (I absolutely refused to spend $80 on a box of Star Wars Legos) and a few long-sleeved shirts for the boys, then I wandered over to the Christmas decorations area. 

I’ve always been a big collector of Christmas ornaments, but I just looked around for a few minutes before I was overcome by a feeling that all this glittery stuff seemed pointless and so disconnected from the true meaning of Christmas.  Tell me what glittery snowflakes, light-up animated polar bears and pink tinsel have to do with the birth of our Saviour?  (I also find it ironic that all of our crappy, commercial Christmas decorations, even things like Nativity scenes, are made in China.  Of all places, the plastic stuff that is supposed to connect us to a Christian holy day is made by workers in a country that officially and unofficially tries to suppress the Christian faith).)

I don’t know what it is with me every year right after Thanksgiving.  I am in no mood to immediately switch gears into the Christmas blitz.  This depressed feeling isn’t new, but it feels just as surprising every year I experience it.  I think it’s just too much, too soon.  What I want is a quiet interlude focused on Christ and his coming.  Not the commercialism and the overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done to “prepare” for Christmas – baking cookies, buying presents, decorating the house.  But it’s so easy to prepare for the wrong things because we feel pressured to accomplish the secular goals of Christmas, rather than the spiritual ones.  And are those spiritual goals so much more time consuming?  Prayer and fasting in some ways do not take the same amount of time, but in other ways, they take a superhuman effort.

You’d think I don’t love the Christmas season, but I actually do and yes, I’ll come around.  Give me a week or two and I’ll be into the fun stuff too.   Did I mention I absolutely love Christmas music?  The religious and the cheesy secular.  Listening to that usually gets me in the Christmas mood.  But until then, I’m going to try and refocus on  Advent.  As we remember in the Paraklesis Service for the Nativity of the Lord,

Let us purge our bodies and souls of sin
that with a pure conscience we may welcome in Bethlehem,
Christ the King of glory who cometh to be born of
the Virgin pure and sinless. Come, let us adore Him!

November 15 Nativity Fast

November 15, 2008

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Today starts the Nativity Fast or the St. Philip’s Fast as it is less commonly known (coming the day after the celebration of the feast of St. Philip the Apostle).  We now begin 40 days of fasting and increased prayer, but also joyful watching and waiting so that at the end we can sing

Make glad, O ye righteous! Greatly rejoice, O ye heavens! Ye mountains, dance for joy!  Christ is born; and like the cherubim the Virgin makes a throne, carrying at her bosom God the Word made flesh.  Shepherds, glorify the newborn Child! Magi, offer the Master gifts!  Angels, sing praises, saying: ‘O Lord past understanding, glory to Thee!’
            (First sticheron of the Praises, Nativity Matins)

Before we can rejoice in the culmination of this fast, we must remember how it started –  with the Annunciation.   The Archangel Gabriel’s pronouncement to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-35) was a message not intended just for a young Gallilean girl 2,000 years ago, but was to become the most meaningful news for the whole of humanity.

Luke 1:26-35

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

The Theotokos spent the next nine months preparing for the birth of her son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I don’t know if she fasted, but prayer must have always been with her.  (As an aside, our modern fasting practices exclude pregnant women and nursing mothers, but this is the Theotokos we’re talking about, who had been miraculously fed during her young life in the Temple.)   The purpose of prayer is to enter into greater communion with God and to live according to his will.  It is amazing to think that a young woman who showed the greatest faith and reliance on the will of God, was now the bearer of God.  She achieved the most perfect communion with God by literally being the Mother and bearer of God.

I wish everyone a blessed journey through the Nativity Fast and I ask forgiveness of anyone I have offended by my words.