Saturday, December 1, 2018

Join the Conspiracy: Wait for it

Here in Utah, Advent does not officially begin today until 5:01 PM, which is official sundown. Again this year it appears that many people, Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans included are already deep into Christmas.

Being demographically and culturally LDS, Utah is a place where there is little-to-no liturgical sensitivity. This not so much a criticism as it is a statement of fact. To give an example, on Ash Wednesday it is not unusual to be told, "You've got something on your forehead." Even after a brief pause, there is no realization that it is a Wednesday in late-Winter or early-Spring and so it just might be Ash Wednesday. Saying, "It's Ash Wednesday" usually provokes a puzzled expression. Similarly, there is a popular notion here that the Twelve Days of Christmas are the eleven days prior to 25 December with Christmas Day being the twelfth day. But, hey, what are you going to do?

More generally, for us Americans, there are few things we find more frustrating than the admonition Wait for it. No doubt this contributes to why we find things so dissatisfying and move quickly to the next thing, looking for who knows what. Waiting for something good, savoring it when it arrives, as the Advent and Christmas seasons bid us do vis-à-vis the Lord's Incarnation, are things we have simply given up on, or, more accurately, forgotten how to do.

It was not unusual growing up for me complain a few hours before supper that I was hungry. My Dad would say in a calm, gentle way, "It's good to be a little hungry. Your supper will taste better." Guess what? I found what he told me to be true! Of course, back then I didn't realize what a valuable life lesson he taught me. When it came to celebrating, our house was not one in which we went nuts for any holiday. We observed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, etc. but managed to keep sight of their essence, what they were about. My parents were more quietly than overtly religious. To this day, a lot of my family is taken aback by my religious fervency. Far from complaining, I appreciate the check and balance they provide for me.

As for me, starting at 5:01 PM, I will pray First Vespers by myself in the small chapel that connects our parish office to the rectory. I will do so by candlelight. I will sing, chant, stand and sit at appropriate times as called for by this office. Most days when I pray Morning and Evening Prayer alone at home I just sit in a chair. However, I always sing and chant Sunday Evening Prayer out loud.

I pray that by my no doubt imperfect observance of this sacred season the Holy Spirit will soften my heart so Christ can be born anew in me and live his resurrected life through me by the power of the Spirit.

I invite everyone reading this to join me in the hopeful waiting of this sacred and oft-neglected season by intensifying prayer, fasting, and selfless service to others (i.e., alms-giving). This is how we resist the fevered pace of the rush to and premature observance of Christmas, which leaves many people tired, broke, physically bloated and spiritually empty. Join the resistance! Join the Advent conspiracy!

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