Advent day 2
It’s often that the artificial Expectation almost spoils the reality of how we live simply by too much focus on the contrast. I don’t condemn commercialism by itself, as people’s means to feed themselves and market their wares are simply the middle part of numerous simultaneous efforts to get fed running in parallel throughout the year. The side effect of what advertising effectively sells us is an unsettling discontentment.
Oddly, where life is fine, our pop culture tells us that it is insufficient. We’re told what ought to be and our discontentment is fed.
Life is pretty good but it’s not easy. Our culture sells us the idea that it should be much easier, smoother, shinier, lovelier, and that what we lack we ought to have. Your life must resemble the contents of the advertisement.
Historically, the Christmas season is called Advent, a word that means “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” During this month, Christians all around the world refocus on the fulfilled promise of Christmas, the coming of Jesus.
Advent begins Sunday and ends on Dec. 24 – the day before Christmas.
This is a time of reflection and celebration meant to be cherished with friends and family. Yet, this hallowed season can often feel hollow in the face of our messy reality.
Advent has arrived – A time to refocus on the fulfilled promise of Christmas
Picture the quintessential Christmas dinner. Three generations of family sit together around a table loaded with holiday favorites. A perfect fire crackles in the fireplace while everyone laughs with one another and snow falls softly outside.
Am I the only one who thinks Hallmark has it wrong?…
That perfect family sitting around the table? They’re nowhere to be found. Someone’s kid is crying, the turkey is burned, and the snow outside has turned into freezing rain.
Old fights resurface, and someone inevitably brings up religion, sports, or politics. Nothing brings us together like the holidays — and nothing drives us further apart.
My interjection is barely needed. Our nature is greed and sin. We overcome greed often enough, usually through aspiration driven by moral codes or spiritual interjection. But I’m citing false expectation created by artificial means for a lot of our problems now. Yet that’s unfair. Commercials sells us a false expectation which makes the disappointment more potent, but that doesn’t create the conflicts and strife between humans and artificial expectations aside the strife is almost natural and entirely as old as civilization and family gatherings.
Jesus was born into a world not unlike ours — one filled with political division, ethnic tension, and social inequality. The rich held power, the poor were marginalized, and the religious elites shunned the “sinners” (anyone they viewed as less worthy than themselves).
It’s easy to see how the life of Jesus would have caused a stir.
Jesus seemed to have a radar for the outcast and forgotten. He ignored cultural taboos and societal expectations in the way he loved others, choosing instead to embrace the sick, help the weary, and eat with sinners — all while declaring: “This is what the kingdom of God looks like.”
Jesus didn’t fix political division. He didn’t solve the problem of ethnic tensions or social inequality. Instead, He did something far more powerful and subversive: He undermined all these systems by demonstrating self-sacrificial love.
Don’t focus on what we’re recently told we’re ought to have and don’t believe that the differences we suffer (or enjoy) between family members (or any combination of loved ones) ought to be eliminated or even resolved. The idea of quick and easy resolution is a lie. The dependence on said resolution for peace is a damning lie. Seeking an earthly peace that superficially resembles fictional situations will result in such abounding and infinitely self-sustaining discontentment that you will be absolutely impossible or at the very least unpleasant with whom to live.
Accept outright that you won’t obtain what you just saw for yourself.
More relevantly if you did obtain that situation as your own it wouldn’t grant you the satisfaction that you infer the fictional characters enjoy.
(You know what is happening with the wife whom you are coveting? She’s sleeping next to the husband you are envying; perhaps they’re even canoodling). Envying real people is self-harm. Envying the fictional people is essentially adopting another person’s scenario as your fantasy. Which means that encountering commercialism in an unhealthy manner is another form of self-harm. Commercials sell us an ideal and a culture and imply that obtaining an item or using a service will get your closer to that satisfaction. They’re feeding into your feeling of dissatisfaction.
Greed is a side-effect of our natural yearning. How the greed takes form is shaped artificially. This greed can be sated artificially. Some yearning, hunger, is sated more or less naturally. Which is to say that hunger for food is natural and eating is natural. Ultimately the yearning starts again. That’s the cycle. Food is meant to be a temporary solution to an ongoing problem. Consumption is meant to be ongoing and regular. Our greed for things is a manifestation of our desire for fulfillment yet things don’t fill the hole. To this end I usually recommend a supernatural solution. For most people that’s an irrational notion and unthinkable, beyond consideration.
Nick Hall focuses on Christ’s self-sacrificial love for a reason: it’s hardly love if there isn’t elements of intentional sacrifice. Even if you’re not a Believer in Christ, I’m going to reject out of hand any notion, at least for purpose of this work, that love as a word for great affection is actually love. That’s just possession and it’s ugly. In this case love is setting aside your own crap and letting go of your own burdens for the sake of others. Try it. You’ll enjoy it. This advice really is more useful if you’re a Christian. It’s difficult for human beings to let go of things on our own.
The name of Jesus breaks the power of selfishness and oppression because it’s only in Jesus that we see how far love is willing to go to set us free from ourselves.
While the love of Jesus might not keep people from arguing around your dinner table this holiday season, it can do something far more powerful. It can release the chains around your own heart and set you free to demonstrate the same sacrificial, freeing love to others.
But the love of Jesus does more than give us hope for dinnertime conversation. This subversive love has the power to transform society from the inside out.
The love of Jesus helps us to see that “unity” does not equal “uniformity.” The Founding Fathers echoed this theme when they talked about the important of unity.
Whether you believe in a spiritual presence or are experiencing that presence or not, this takes some actual effort.
James Madison as Publius
Hearken not to the unnatural voice which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as members of the same family… No, my countrymen, shut your ears against this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which it conveys
|| Federalist No. 14 || Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory Answered
Essentially put aside some of your own demands and desires and interests long enough to seek and achieve the common needs and overall happiness of your family. Do this deliberately because it is good to do so. Whatever challenges you and your family, we and our country face, are all obstacles and burdens that are old, been done, confronted over and over again throughout history.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
If the problems of our age are confronted or released or dismissed so much in every age then it’s not so big an expectation that you do so. By that some reasoning it’s expected that you let go of unreasonable expectations. More relevantly, in an age of commercial media (and don’t pretend that advertising is a new invention) don’t let the unreasonable expectations be created by that same advertising which was designed to tempt you into discontentment.
Creating a new essay (or something) every day of Advent might prove to be an unreasonable goal set, especially since I started this project at the last minute. As it is we’ll see how I do about finding content, or more personally, divining and deriving my own original words from others’ works. While I’m railing against our own culture undermining our spiritual and cultural peace, a theme I’ll continue throughout, I obviously drew inspiration from Nick Hall’s Advent message about Christ’s self-sacrificial love. As it is, I don’t know when and if I’ll stop noting that our own culture is actually creating a means of self-sabotage. To be fair, I don’t actually condemn the art of advertisement or means, intention of commercial promotion. Tomorrow is the third day of the Advent season and I’ll talk about the Pope’s message.