My favorite annual reading is a 28-page booklet I've had for many years by Johannes Metz titled "The Advent of God" in which Metz argues that "the malady of contemporary man is his deliberate effort to forget the coming of God into human history." Each year when I re-read this tome the truth of it seems to me more and more palpable. Our attention in Advent is one of preparation for the coming of Christ but we are more attentive to the bargains we can obtain that we will throw away in the new year. It would also appear that shopping these first days is not the kind of family ritual that brings us together but the implementation of some kind of economic war game that requires law enforcement to intervene when someone else grabs first the item I want. We human beings are flawed characters in the book of life.
My Christmas shopping memories are a very young age with my mother and two siblings going to see Santa Claus at a downtown department store, the bell of the Salvation Army Santa outside the store, the endless stream of dimes on the sidewalk placed there for the March of Dimes appeal for polio research, a bus ride home, some snowfall as we walked two blocks to our door and knowing we would be warm and happy once inside. That is nostalgia. Tyranny has replaced the memory.
The current season takes on many colors - Thursday was once Thanksgiving Day, now it is Brown Thursday; Friday is Black Friday; Saturday is Small Business Saturday (is that a neutral color?) and Monday is Cyber Monday (that probably is multi-colored like fireworks). None of it revolves around people anymore. It is all about economics.
For many Americans today, God is a thing of the past. The Christian believes that God entered human history and it is up to us to make "a continuing effort to keep ourselves open to the coming of God." We do not know when the Lord will return, Metz writes. This gives us a "lowliness and poverty" that are intrinsic to "any genuine faith in God's first Advent." But Americans can't stand to be poor and wouldn't admit their impoverishment because of the absence of God in their lives anymore than an alcoholic can admit to being unable to not drink.
Advent is a season of preparation. The preparation is not for recognizing our wealth. It is for admitting our poverty. Our lives are quite definitely and absolutely meaningless without God.