Season Creep -- The Lost Art of Waiting
By the Rev. Tim Schenck
Season Creep. It’s what happens when Halloween candy is put out with Back-to-School sales and Christmas decorations are up before Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day chocolates are juxtaposed with New Year’s noisemakers. People have been bemoaning this for years even as we keep feeding into it. “I can’t believe they’re having a Christmas sale in the middle of November!” we proclaim with righteous indignation as we slap down our credit card to get a great deal on an xBox.
It’s easy to complain about the madness of it all; to reminisce about the days of yore when we actually enjoyed one season before moving on to the next. It’s harder to do something about it. It’s harder to change our lifestyle to reflect a healthier and ultimately more fulfilling approach to the changing of the seasons.
But first it’s helpful to think about why we’re in such a hurry. Why are we so ready to drop one holiday for the next even while the first holiday is still going on? Why do we have to plot out our Christmas shopping strategy while still eating pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day? Why can’t we be more attentive to living in the moment and enjoying the present before jumping to the next big thing? As easy as it is to foist blame on the nameless, faceless “culture of materialism,” I think it transcends consumerism and marketing.
We also have to take some responsibility here. Because when you strip away our handheld technologies and the instant access to information to which we’ve become accustomed, we’re still simply human beings seeking to make sense of our transitory lives. We rush around like mall Santas with our heads cut off because we don’t truly believe that God is present in every moment. We act as if we can just stay ahead of the pack our deep insecurities and fears will never catch up to us. Of course that’s merely setting our lives up like a house of (Christmas) cards -- it’s not sustainable in the long run.
One thing that’s also lost in all of this rushing ahead is the sense of sweet anticipation. We’re not so good at living into the practice of waiting. Like your average toddler we want what we want and we want it now! Our tantrums are less public than the one thrown on the floor of the the home goods department at Macy’s but the attitude is similar.
Think about the first time you were in love. The ache of parting and then waiting until the next time you were together made your time together that much sweeter. That’s what waiting does for the soul. It makes each moment more precious and allows us to enjoy time spent together without racing to clean up the dishes or put up the Christmas tree or box up the ornaments.
This year, I encourage you to live into the season of Advent -- the four weeks that precede Christmas Day. Advent is the Church’s time of holy waiting and, yes, it is extremely counter-cultural. We don’t belt out Christmas carols at church until Christmas Eve; we don’t hang the greens and put out the poinsettias around the altar until much later in the season.
(Actually I no longer refer to decorating the church at Christmas as the “hanging of the greens.” I used to, until we had a family join the church named “Green.” So now we call it the “greening of the church” and the Greens don’t have to watch their backs this time of year).
Advent is a reminder that there’s a sacred rhythm that runs parallel to the secular timetable of the season. Go ahead and shop and hum Christmas carols and watch Frosty the Snowman with the kids but be mindful of season creep. And know that only when you allow that anticipation to build as you wait and watch and prepare to meet Jesus anew, is the deep joy of Christmas complete.