The turkey has been carved and every morsel of meat stripped from its carcass. We have dined on left over dressing, turkey sandwiches, and I guess we are destined for turkey soup. The Black Friday lines are gone leaving behind horror stories of pepper spray, shootings and muggings along with the happy shoppers who braved the wee-hour crowds and got the good deals. Bleary-eyed workers at Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy are beginning to catch up on their sleep. Across America, shoppers are turning to the blue glow of computer screens searching for the best deals on Cyber-Monday.
This weekend, a blast of fall blew copper colored leaves across the yard. Families scrambled outside their houses with giggling children. Mothers gave advice and helped as fathers struggled to untangle strings of lights that would adorn the roof and, in some cases, stretch across the yard. Up and down the street on which we live, rooftops came aglow with red, green, yellow and blue lights. Sunday evening we erected the Christmas tree in our front window. I will have to tinker with the lights to get them all lit, but it is a start. In a matter of hours, the season shifted from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
In some ways, Christmas is a unique American cultural holiday. Over the last two centuries our forefathers developed traditions that define the season: the Christmas tree, Christmas cards decorated with snowmen and snow flocked trees, eggnog, fruitcake, and, again, turkey and dressing. We have added electric lights that twinkle in the night; fairy tales with fanciful themes, Santa and Rudolph; The Grinch who stole Christmas; Miracle on Thirty-fourth Street and It’s A Wonderful Life. We have adopted A Christmas Carol from England and The Nutcracker from Russia. And, on top of all this, we have ratcheted up the commercial impact.
The church I attended yesterday lit their first candle for Advent. It reminded me that this season is not just American. The Advent, of course refers to the “coming” of Christ, the gift of God’s Son to the world. He came in much different circumstances, with none of the traditions we have added. And He came for all nations. As Zechariah predicted, ““Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.” (Zech. 2:11).
Today, there are more Christians in South America, Africa and Asia than there are in the United States and Europe. Many of the trappings and traditions we enjoy at this season are unknown to them. But we share one thing in common, the “Advent” of God’s only begotten Son who has saved us from our sins.
I think I enjoy the American Christmas traditions as much as anyone. But, as the seasons turn, I hope I will not be distracted from concentrating on the single most important event in human history, God’s unspeakable gift in Jesus of Nazareth.