Okay, I’ll come out and say it. I don’t like Advent. I realize that probably makes me a prime candidate for Grinchville, but I just don’t like it. Now I love Christmas. I love the lights and music and celebrations. The cookies, the eggnog, the hot mulled cider. The colors and tinsel and trappings.

What I don’t like is that every December I’m torn between the way our culture celebrates Christmas and the way our Church celebrates Advent. Now in theory, I’m all aboard with Advent—the sense of anticipating, waiting, longing to be culminated in a joyful Christmas Day. However, that’s not what actually happens. Because our culture starts celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, by Dec. 25, everything is over. In contrast, the Church says Dec. 25 begins the celebration. So when I keep a strict Advent—no decorations, no holiday music, no parties—until Christmas Day, I (and a few stalwarts) are the only ones trying to make merry on December 26th. Everyone else is packing up the holiday and getting ready for the New Year. It makes me feel like I get one day of Christmas and everyone else gets a month.

I know all the arguments about being counterculture and a witness because I’ve used them all. I understand the reason behind the Church’s design and I appreciate it. But feelings and intellect aren’t always in synch and every Advent, I feel a combination of resentment and ostracism, coupled with a dose of foolishness as I play my carols when everyone else is sick of them.

I’ll admit I don’t know what to do about it. Do I join the secular side or do I resist and retain the spiritual? Is there some way to combine the two?

I’d like to find out, so this year, I’m going to try something I’ve never done before. I’m going to participate fully in the wreaths and holly and bells and wassail starting when everyone else does—Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. However, I am also going to do some kind of organized, pre-meditated penance as befits the season of Advent. Not the strict sort that accompanies Lent, but a gentler, cheerier penance. For instance, I think I will make sure that I participate in our parish’s Christmas food box program, not just by giving a few cans, but by trying to fill as much of a basket as I can. I’m going to try to read the Gospel of Luke from beginning to end because I love Luke’s Nativity narrative and it’s been a long time since I’ve read the entire Gospel. And I am going to try to be as patient as possible with the crabby crowds. In this way, I’m hoping that while I participate in the secular on one level (I think it’s the missing out on the Christmas cookies that really has frustrated me!), I will, at the same time, deepen my anticipation of the real celebration of Christmas—the coming of the Savior.

I’m not sure if it will work. But as part of my ongoing quest to fully integrate my spiritual beliefs with my everyday life, I’m going to give it a try. In the meantime, Happy Adventmas and a Merry Christvent!