It’s early November, and Michael Buble has already told me it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And the weirdest thing is, I asked for it.
I didn’t walk into a mall and get assaulted by the early onslaught of carols to ring in the shopping season. Nor did I hear Buble’s honey-coated voice as I accidentally caught the radio station that plays 24-7 Christmas music shortly after Halloween.
No, I did this on purpose. Driving for my second job, I turned on my Spotify Christmas playlist and let it play. In addition to Buble telling me to take a look at the Five and Ten (it’s apparently glistening once again), Amy Grant extolled the virtues of sleigh rides and Mariah Carey said that I was all she wanted for Christmas. And I absolutely loved it.
This is odd for me. Growing up, my dad was adamant that the Christmas season didn’t begin until the last float made it down Woodward in the Detroit Thanksgiving parade. Between throwing out the jack-o-lanterns and dressing the turkey, we didn’t mention Santa, elves or silver bells. I tried to maintain this in my adult life, mostly so that I wasn’t sick of the holiday by December 1, but also because it just never felt right. On the few occasions I tried to listen to Christmas music shortly after Halloween, it felt off. Maybe I’d start the week of Thanksgiving, but other than that the music felt too saccharine and peppy for the cold end of fall.
Forgive me for getting holly jolly so early, but it has been a crap year. Our nation has pressed on under the leadership (I use the term loosely) of a man who is a toddler at best and a tyrant at worst. My wife and I both lost our grandmothers this summer, along with other family deaths. Our nation continues to weather the epidemics of mass shootings. The entertainers we turn to for escapism continue to be revealed to be lecherous creeps. So can I be blamed for wanting to down a peppermint mocha and let Harry Connick Jr. tell me to have myself a merry little Christmas?
On the Christian calendar, Advent has a set time and place. But in our hearts, we often need the reminder of it year-round. We need to let our hearts cry out to God in the darkness and remember that He has come down to us. I’m glad we have a set time of year to celebrate this; as I get older however, I’m more than happy to let it creep in a little earlier. The calendar still says Ordinary Time; my heart says “I need Advent.”
We’re in a national malaise. We’re divided, we angry, we’re tired. We want healing and hope. We want bright light to shine in the darkness and songs of hope to reach out through the noise. We need something to warm our hearts and remind us that all is not lost. It’s only November, but we’re already crying out “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
I’ve spent most of the year frustrated and in mourning. If I can let that frustration turn to hope and a reminder that God is with us, I’m going to do that. It might be a bit early in the church calendar, but I’m already in an Advent frame of mind and I don’t want to run from it.
But that tree’s not going up until after the turkey’s done.