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For Your Marriage

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for almost 20 years and have three children in middle school and high school. They blog about parenting and their adventures as a family.

Advent Struggle

I am struggling with Christmas shopping.

More to the point I am struggling with our consumerist interpretation of “preparing for Christmas” and its mass media displacement of Advent.

Whew! I actually didn’t know I felt that strongly until I sat down and started writing that sentence. Make sure you read it with a certain edge in my voice, because that is how I wrote it. Seems like the season is getting to me.

It’s funny, sometimes in the last couple weeks, I am at peace and focused on the spiritual roots of the season. Like meditating on some really rich Advent quotes from Pope Leo the Great…

“In adoring the birth of our savior, we celebrate the commencement of our own life.” Or, “He who made all natures became son of her whom he created.”

…and other times, I get swept up in the pace that the radio or ads dictate for this time of year. Like trying to determine if a given Lego set is, in fact, on sale at the local store, or if that is their standard price for it. And if it is their standard price, why is it $10 cheaper than Toys R Us and Target?! Surely I must snap it up immediately before the store managers come to their senses.

The biggest problem with the latter mindset (besides the anxiety, wasted gas in the car and wasted time from my life) is that I am trying to talk myself into thinking that it is a MORE simple way of living out the season, just because I am “bargain hunting.”

And this is the crux of the matter. All year ‘round, our children live a simple lifestyle when it comes to toys and games. And they do so without complaint. So my biggest struggle at this time of year is facing down consumerism — and specifically what it is asking me to do and to be – while also wanting to celebrate my children.

It seems like a worthy thing to want to “give children a good Christmas.” I recognize that “a good Christmas” is a highly subjective reality though. It certainly varies from family to family and person to person. It may even vary from moment to moment in a given person.

That is where I find myself: Varying. Struggling.

I know in my heart and mind that it should be and IS in fact ENOUGH to have good solid family traditions around an Advent wreath and Jesse tree pointing us towards Mass on Christmas. That all of the focus on waiting and preparing is good for our children and the people they are becoming.

Sadly though, if I am being honest, I have to acknowledge that on some level society has shaped me to think that the only way their experience of waiting is not in vain is if they have a great big payoff from Santa on Christmas morning.

It is Joshua who calls me out of dwelling in that part of myself (a superhuman effort at times; I can be pretty intent). He reminds me that my struggle with the darkness of consumerism acknowledges that in the depth of my being I am oriented towards the light of a different reality. I fundamentally have a choice between what I experience as darkness and what I know to be light. In a way it is an authentically Advent experience.