At this time of year, as the nation emerges from its food coma and eyestrain of post-Thanksgiving feasting and football, it is all but obligatory for a commentary columnist to reflect upon the dichotomy between Advent and commercialism.
For this year’s task, an effort to avoid repetition resulted in me looking at the files for past Novembers to see how the matter was addressed for almost 25 years. That resulted in finding a timeline of secularization.
Early on, columns dealt with continuing campaigns to keep Christ in Christmas. Despite the best efforts of such as the Knights of Columbus, and with thanks to the courts, that is pretty much a lost cause.
The U.S. Post Office was early in the separation, offering a choice of either a religious stamp usually featuring Madonna and child or a stamp with a warm and fuzzy Yule theme, both done by a classic artist.
Later columns dealt with overspending on gifts, including what I termed the "glitz index" achieved by dividing the cost of the most expense wristwatch in a national jewelry catalog by the price of the simplest piece available in drugstores.
And the growing use of "the holidays" as a term that in its non-specificity could take in Labor Day to Memorial Day.
Then, as the clippings became less-yellowed, the first use of "Black Friday" was discovered, referring to the day after Thanksgiving when stores first opened a few hours earlier. Then merchants began opening up at pre-dawn, and this year, at least one national department store opened at midnight, leaving hardly enough time to scrub and put away the turkey roasting pan.
This year it seems almost anti-American to suggest any restraint in shopping, lest the consumer confidence index be shaken.
What has been the effect of this secularization and materialism over the years?
One clue is found in the extremely premature presidential campaign. The calendar has been pulled forward, so that things which used to occur in the spring are now in the fall.
We can’t wait.
Every article, index, financial event is analyzed for signs of "the recovery."
We can’t wait.
But Advent is a time of waiting.
Reflecting on this, year by year, one sees two concepts of waiting:
* Waiting "in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ" during Advent.
* Waiting with no end in sight — for "the recovery," for the next election, with no firm hope that these or any events will bring the fulfillment longed for. This period reflects an increase in consumer confidence rather than in Christian confidence.
Some find their hope in Black Friday; others in Good Friday.
Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle.