Can you hear the clock ticking as our culture veers toward open warfare?
Can you hear the shopping malls preparing their displays, the lawyers preparing for combat, the atheists preparing their posters for protests, the spin-zone Fox opinion writers preparing their scripts?
Here comes the War on Christmas 2015.
The Divine Mrs. M.Z. Hemingway -- GetReligionista emeritus -- knows what is coming and jumped into the fray early, but not on the subject of Christmas alone.
Right up front, let me stress that I realize that her recent piece at The Federalist, "Forget The War On Christmas, The War On Advent Is Worse" was not a journalism piece. However, it was an essay with implications for how journalists can (I would plead "should") think about one angle of the Christmas coverage that is to come. Thus, I thought I would share a piece or two of it.
There are some potential angles in this piece for journalists thinking about Christmas Wars coverage.
Angle No. 1: When does Christmas actually begin? In the culture? In the Christian tradition, as opposed to the "American" tradition, the shopping mall tradition?
Angle No. 2: At what point are ordinary Americans already swamped with stuff that is allegedly linked to Christmas?
Angle No. 3: Does any of this have anything to do with religious faith and practice?
Here is M.Z. getting rolling:
I just received an email asking me to “save the date” for a “Christmas” party to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 3. “Hi friends, get a jump start on your holiday planning with our Save the Date for the [redacted] Christmas party,” the email read. Attached was a card that read “sleigh bells will ring, JINGLE, JINGLE, JINGLE So let’s get together to MIX & MINGLE.”
Now, I love an invitation to a party as much as the next girl, but this is a great example of The War on Advent (here’s where you imagine a big FOX News zooming and blinking banner as beautiful talking heads discuss how the culture is hostile to Christians).
You’re familiar with “The War on Christmas,” where we get upset that people turn what is clearly a religious holy day celebrated by the vast majority of the people in the country into a generic “holiday” season where the worst thing you can do is publicly speak the name of the holiday that almost everyone is celebrating. I agree that we should be free to say, you know, “Merry Christmas” or invite people to a Christmas party without being hauled in front of our municipality’s human rights tribunal. Desacralizing religious symbols and holidays to appease a never-satisfied progressive mob is a great way to destroy any joy or meaning associated with Christmas and pretty much everything else in life. The silliest way we “War on Christmas” is in public schools, where we sing songs about every religion’s seasonal holiday -- some of which don’t even take place any time near Dec. 25, and then refuse to sing any of the gazillion awesome religious songs about Christmas.
But what about the War on Advent? This is the war that really perturbs those of us who are liturgical Christians.
M.Z. then lays out the historical basics. Christmas is on Dec. 25th and then the season of Christmas continues for the next 12 days. Not the 12 days before Christmas. Not the 12 days after Thanksgiving. Not the 12 days before most of the network TV newsroom's staff vanishes for The Holidays.
In the Christian West:
Advent begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, which is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. The length of each Advent season can and does vary slightly. The hymns of preparation for this season are just wonderful -- possibly the best of the church year — and include the Great O Antiphons, “Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending,” “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came,” “Savior of the Nations, Come” and many, many more.
Even though Advent is marked in this country by millions of Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians and many other Christians, it’s almost invisible in media coverage and cultural celebrations. And Christmas, in this country, “ends” on the day it begins for Christians, which makes things weird. The season after Christmas, by the way, is Epiphany. A traditional time of celebration was the night before Epiphany, the 12th night of the Christmas season. Perhaps you’ve heard of the play “Twelfth Night” by William F. Shakespeare? There you go.
So if you really want to fight on the right side of the War on Christmas, you also have to fight on the right side of the War on Advent, OK?
It's pretty clear that M.Z. is writing her piece as a plea to people who would like to do a better job of celebrating Christmas in a non-materialistic manner. However, I think it contains quite a bit of material that would be of interest to journalists who want to write the same old Christmas Wars coverage again this year.
In other words, take a chance: Think differently for a change.
IMAGE: Icon of St. Nicholas of Myra, whose feast day is on Dec. 6.