It is very late in November, meaning the Thanksgiving trappings are disorganizing, ready to be returned to the basement closet and the upper cupboards until next year. The best of the leftovers are eaten, but there is soup to be made. Other households are putting up Christmas lights--or did so yesterday, before the rain. But here, where German family tradition and church liturgical practice enforce Advent waiting, the dining room table is naked. The Thanksgiving cloth has been washed, folded and put away. The Christmas cloth is in the bottom of the drawer, needing ironing. It seems wrong to spread so much red cheer, right there in the middle of the house where food is served and the family gathers for Christmas Eve dinner. So it stays in the drawer and the table gathers stuff.
I went out shopping this morning. I am not unaffected by the economic pull of Christmas, the potential for bargains, the desire to celebrate connections with gifts that bring warmth or delight or new experiences. I set out with a few clear and practical goals and hope that delightful surprises waited out there. I came home with nothing, confused about sizes and what to buy. I resolved to do my shopping online, where I can walk away from the screen (well, not as easily as I'd like), where I do not have to face the piles of worthless stuff in the store aisles.
The lessons for tomorrow, the first Sunday in Advent, have Christ returning through heavens rent wide, stars falling, the Son of Man coming in clouds, gathering the elect from the four winds (Mark 13:24-37). I suppose today is just quiet enough, just miserable and gray enough to welcome that kind of excitement, that kind of clarity. Take that, you miserable department stores! Take that, you online retailers and the junk mailbox! Short circuit, you droning television set, chronicling petty materialism and false conflict between families!
Christ will come again--that's what we say in Advent, what we affirm in the eucharistic liturgy. But at the moment, the kingdom, like the red tablecloth, is in the bottom of the drawer.
Yet here am I, thinking that, as the song says, "we need a little Christmas," even if it's a long way from the sacred (and too-busy) night of December 24. Something should begin to make things new, or make them look new, or at least stop the rain. There's the knitting work I did yesterday--Christmas presents on the needles, yarn untangled and ready for casting on. Today--candles, lights, something to sound out the expectation of glory to God and peace on earth.