Another one of those moments happened to me today; it walked up and hit me right upside the head.
The scene: Me baking Christmas cookies in the kitchen, wondering, “When am I going to get these things baked, let alone frosted?” Wondering, “What should I do for a Christmas card picture?” Wondering, “When are we going to go Christmas shopping?” Wondering, “Should I hang up that greenery?”
I then took a break and stumbled upon this post over at the Anchoress:
Says the Anchoress: “More Virgin Mary, Less Virgin Islands…A great piece by my pal, Fr. James Martin, SJ”:
Look, I love family photos during the holidays. Plus, I actually read those annual holiday letters, all of which start with “What a busy year it’s been!” Seeing photos of my friends and their families and even enjoying a few sunny beach scenes when it’s cold and dark outside is a highlight of December.
But I enjoy the photos more when they’re inside the card, not the card itself. Because more and more, even devout Christians have been replacing Jesus, Mary and Joseph with themselves. Doesn’t it strike you as weird to set aside the Holy Family in favor of your family? Does a photo of Cabo San Lucas trump the story told by the original San Lucas? Is Christmas really about you?
Still unconvinced? Try a thought experiment. For your next birthday, how would you feel about getting a birthday card with my photo on it? “Happy Birthday! It’s a photo of me!”
Ahem. As I scanned Fr. Martin’s words, I underwent a startling transformation, ending up somewhere under the heading, “Sheepish.”
Yes, the creeping secularization of Christmas is nothing new and has been around for decades. (see this story for evidence. Warning: gagworthy.) But evidently we all need a wake-up call every now and then. As with everything in life, even the most awe-inspiring things can soon become mundane. But if you really think about the Nativity and what it meant and still means for humanity, Christmas cards featuring the family not only seem out of place, but absurd.
Of course, I will still probably include a family picture, but perhap I will take Fr. Martin’s advice, and slip one into the card, not have it as the card itself. And no, I won’t judge anyone who sends a picture-as-card either. I love Christmas cards! In fact, if you know my mailing address, make sure to send one our way! (I’m rather old-ladyish that way.)
May we never get so tied up in the non-essentials of the season that we feel we need to schedule in “relaxing with the family,” “baking cookies,” or, more importantly, “reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas.” The Catholic liturgical year is a great way to be reminded of these things, I think. Jennifer over at Conversion Diary reflects beautifully on the liturgical year, especially from a convert’s perspective.
So, I will go back to my cookie-baking a bit more austerely and with some badly needed perspective. I will valiantly attempt to keep “Advent” in mind amidst the general holly-jollying.