Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent: The Spiritual & Commercial Countdowns to Christmas

I grew up with cardboard Advent calendars of various types. There were 25 little cutout doors that when you opened, showed a picture underneath of some sort of present, and on December 25th the picture was of the baby Jesus, he being the ultimate gift. It took some real restraint as a child, not to open them all at once the first week.

There is a wonderful online version of the classic idea from Jacquie Lawson. You enter through a snow globe that you download, and by clicking an ornament on the background you get an animated scene with music or an interactive tableau, like decorating a wreath or gingerbread men.  You cannot click ahead, because the the flash activations are connected to a clock. Petty sneaky.

I try to use this time—marked by both the commercial world's great expectations for the season and the spiritual rites of Advent, both leading to the end-of-year odometer turnover that is our New Years—to see where I am spiritually.  Sometimes I find grace in the most unlikely places. Other times, like now,  I feel parched, yearning for the cool, enlivening sense of life and love and purpose that started with the waters of baptism.

T.S. Eliot captured this sense of dryness in The Waste Land

From 'What the Thunder Said'

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses

Of course It's not all parched out there. There are clever people who have made wine rack advent calendars. Now, that's the spirit.