I'm still hung up on Advent, I can't stop thinking about it. What I've been mulling over lately is the connection between Easter and Christmas.
Christmas isn't truly significant if we don't believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate on Easter. If we don't believe Christ gave himself up for us on the cross to save us from eternal separation from him, otherwise known as hell, then his birth is nothing more than a quaint story. Secular culture tries to make Christmas important by gift-giving and eating and getting together with friends and family, but the reason to do these things are dictated by a mere date on the calendar, as well as tradition. No, Christmas doesn't really make sense unless we believe in Easter.
The thing that has really been sinking in is that because of these reasons, Christmas is not the highest holy day of the Liturgical year-- Easter is. Christmas is only the beginning of the greatest story ever told....Easter is the end of it, the grand finale in which God fully reveals himself to us.
But Christmas gets all the attention! And I don't know what to do about it, exactly. Shall I deflate my 'Christmas spirit' in the name of being Christlike? Christmas has always been the big deal holiday, the only one that's so important I will get on an airplane to be with family. This isn't a bad thing, is it? But what do I do at Easter to celebrate that compares?
I'm grateful that I have experienced Easter as a Catholic, because Easter was profoundly different for me this year having observed Lent before hand. Easter didn't suddenly appear unannounced, I had been preparing for it for 40 days. Instead of coaxing some joy out of myself over Christ's resurrection, I couldn't help but feeling joyful. I wanted to throw a big party on Easter. It felt wrong not to.
I've been thinking of Advent as a mini-Lent, but it doesn't feel remotely the same. There are no jangly commercials to make me desperate for a remote with a mute button during Lent, there is nothing on my 'to do' list save 'get right with God', there is no planned overeating. Lent makes me think of a clean chalkboard, and December a cork board overflowing with push-pins and papers. These invasions are not Advent itself, but they make Advent harder to observe. So shall I dispense with them all? Shall I never throw a Christmas party? Not set foot in the mall?
I'm just looking for some balance here - a way to make the secular embellishments of Christmas more toned-down so I can sit down and have time to ponder my position relative to God. I don't want to go so far as to say that Christmas should be strictly celebrated at Church and in the heart, because it is a day worthy of rejoicing, and part of that is adding our human embellishments - feasting, visiting, a little extravagance here and there. That's just the way we do things on planet earth, and I think God understands...and perhaps there should be some more of that at my house on Easter.
I guess all I can say at this point is that I am really, really looking forward to Lent and Easter. This mini-Lent of Advent is making me crave the real thing.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on how to properly celebrate Advent, Christmas, or Easter, please share them!