I saw it today: the first Christmas decorations going up in the village near my home. Can't we even have Thanksgiving?
It's not the shameless commercialism that bothers me. It's knowing that this is just a small representation of a large problem: our inability to wait.
Once upon a time, before shopping malls dictated our holy day celebrations, Christmas began on... Christmas... and lasted 12 days (you know, like the song). Good Episcopalian that I am, I will wait until Christmas Eve to decorate my tree. And I simply will not bring a tree into my home before the 4th Sunday of Advent.
Yes, Advent, that season of waiting which was lost about fifty years ago. Waiting for the coming of Christ-- retrospectively for his birth, expectantly for his earthly return. That season throughout December in which we don't sing Christmas hymns but rather songs of longing: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
It's a lost art, this waiting thing. We can't wait for our possessions, so we buy on credit. We can't wait for marriage, so we satisfy our physical and emotional desires with mate of the moment. We can't wait for dinner, so we break into the potato chips.
(These days, I can't wait for my toddler to walk from the front door to the car without feeling like I'm going to blow. Why does he have to stand still every time he sees something, tell me what it is, stand there another full minute, then take three steps and repeat the whole thing with a new object? Why? Tell me, why?)
When I see garland with a red velvet bow in mid-November, all I see is the restlessness of a culture that no longer appreciates the joy of anticipation.
If we cannot wait for Christmas, how are we to wait for Christ?