I love the title of that book by a hapless housewife, Sometimes I Wake Up Grumpy…and Sometimes I let Him Sleep In.
I know I’m a grumpy old guy sometimes. So what?
At this time of year I make no apologies for being a bit of a Scrooge. You can go here to read my monumental grumble about Christmas 12 Things I Hate About Christmas.
The fact of the matter is, this is Advent, and Christmas doesn’t really start until Christmas Eve. One year I suggested to our cash strapped young family that we celebrate Christmas during Christmas–that we put up the tree on Christmas Eve, then take advantage of the post-Christmas sales to all go out and do our Christmas shopping, then give gifts at Epiphany. This, it seemed to me, was an eminently sensible idea that combined correct liturgical appreciation with economy. Not only would things be cheaper after Christmas, but the stores would be happy to shift all their Christmas crap at cut rate prices.
The idea, I’m afraid, went over like lead boots on Santa’s reindeer. There were glum faces and expressions of dismay and disbelief as if I had gone loco for Advent.
So I gave in, and have resigned myself to an annual curmudgeonly grumble. Call it my Advent Rant.
One of the most noxious things about this silly season are the foolish seasonal songs. I won’t dignify them with the title “Christmas Carols.” From Frosty the Snowman to Rudolph etc. etc. “Chestnuts roasting on the open fire?” C’mon. Where would you get a chestnut? And an open fire? The last time we went camping the place was equipped with an outdoor fire circle with a gas fire in the center. “You want a campfire?” Flick a switch. Really.
The marshmallows tasted of chemicals and the S’mores were S’less.
This celebration of Christmas right on the heels of Halloween is obscene…like sneaking into your grandma’s closet and opening your presents before your birthday. It’s a cheat.
But everybody wants to Christmas without Advent just like we want dessert without eating our vegetables.
So we’ve gradually given up on Advent being a little Lent–a penitential season and we’ve watered down the mulled wine and play the genial priest and smile and say, “Well, now it is a time of preparation for the birth of Our Lord. A time to celebrate the anticipation of a child being expected in the world. blah, blah, blah.”
What if were to really treat Advent as a little Lent and we decided to fast more, pray more and maybe pray a Novena or give some extra gifts to the poor? Which brings me to another grumble.
Please don’t turn up at the rectory with a bright smile asking your priest to give you the name of a “poor family” who needs some gifts at Christmas. My reply is, “Why don’t you be in touch with that poor family you have befriended and have been helping all year long?” In his book Toxic Charity Robert Lupton tells the story of being with an African American inner city family on Christmas Eve when a big SUV pulled up and a well dressed lady with two squeaky clean kids climbed out and brought armfuls of beautifully wrapped presents to the door.
They were disappointed that the children received the gifts with glum faces. Lupton explained, “That’s because they know as soon as you leave their stepdad is going to open the presents and take all the gifts to the pawn shop to get money for drugs.”
“Helping a poor family” is a lot more complicated than you think.
So for Advent, if you do want to get in the season, determine to do so the whole year ’round.
As for being a Christmas curmudgeon, I’ll try to be good and I promise to be first in the “get cured of curmudgeon-ness” line, but I’m going to enjoy being grumpy for a little bit longer.