Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,
It has only been a few days since you left Possum Kingdom, but Granny and I miss you both something terrible already. Didn’t we have a grand ten days together though, celebrating Thanksgiving on December 5th and Christmas on December 6th? I know you two didn’t care those were not the traditional days for these events. Judging by the smiles on your faces as you played with the dozens of new toys Santa brought, you could have cared less what day it was or even if we were in the Advent season at all.
In the Christian faith the season in which we celebrate Christmas is called Advent. It means “the coming” and it is the period during the church year when we focus on the coming of our Lord both in the past and in the future. It is not just a single day, December 25th, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. After all, even biblical scholars disagree on the actual day of our Lord’s birth. So having the season of Advent allows us a longer period, from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas eve, for celebration, reflection and hope.
Oh, I know, for young people it is all about the presents and the Christmas decorations, Santa Claus and stories of elves and reindeer. It is easy to get caught up in all the trappings of the season and not just for children. Grown-ups and parents especially fall pray to the Christmas hype and hyperbole. Our newspapers weigh at least an extra two pounds at this time of year because of all the advertisements and flyers stuffed inside. Our mailboxes are jammed with catalogues; their purveyors hoping to coax just one more purchase, yet another dollar from our already weary wallets. And the ringing in my ears doesn’t mean I am getting old, it is just the Salvation Army bell ringer at Wal-Mart. Then there are the Christmas gatherings; dinner parties, office functions, the school holiday plays or other festive celebrations that make December one of the busiest social months of the year.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this (except maybe the weary wallet part), but it makes me wonder if we are missing the point, which brings me to my next Pearl.
Twenty-Ninth Pearl: "Celebrate Advent All Year Long"
It would have been more appropriate if this was my twenty-sixth letter to you. The 26th is the day after Christmas. No one celebrates that day unless you are a dedicated bargain hunter and live for the opportunity to pick up next years decorations at half price. No, the 26th is the forgotten day, the day for leftover Christmas ham sandwiches and, for some, the going back to work day. It is the day for many when we start to forget what the previous day was all about. And pretty soon after the 26th, when all the decorations have been taken down and stored away for another year, when the newspaper is lighter and the mailbox more spacious, when the store music goes from “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” back to Barry Manilow, the joyous celebration of the coming of our Lord goes back in the box with the rest of the seasonal ornaments.
When you get older, my darlings, don’t let that happen to you. Remember the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus is just the beginning. The Advent of our Lord is still ahead of us. The salvation we claim through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord manifests itself when Jesus comes to us on a daily basis; residing in our hearts and minds and guiding our behavior and our actions. The Christmas spirit delivered to us during the Advent season can bring joy and hope everyday of the year, not just on the 25th. That is the true gift of Christmas and it is better than all the gold, frankincense and myrrh in the world. It is even better than the big yellow Tonka dump truck with back up alarm, lights and motor sounds, Gehrig. Trust me on this.
Merry Christmas and, remember, I love you bunches and bunches,