67 days? Yes, Hallmark brought us over 67 days of “Christmas” from October to early January. By any measure, it was an awful lot of canned cheer. On my satellite dish, it was more like 201 days of Christmas since we have three Hallmark channels. I could also add in the knockoffs at Lifetime and UP channels, but you get the point. We were inundated, saturated, bombarded and bamboozled with 4,824 hours of Christmas!
At first, this really annoyed me. I didn’t recall ever seeing a manger in any Hallmark movie. For this reason, I imagine the season these channels promoted had more to do with cards and ornaments than the one-time historical event of God’s incarnation to humanity. I really didn’t need the holiday shopping season to co-exist with Halloween and Thanksgiving. With Amazon, shopping is already 24/7 for us anyway. So, in my annoyment, I boldly told my wife that I was not watching TV with her until Advent—except for college football, of course.
Unaware of the financial difficulties my boycott had upon the Hallmark corporation, I held fast.
When Advent officially came, I crossed my self-established picket line. Some would argue that we should not celebrate Christmas during Advent. One does not snack on the meal during its preparation. I can’t really argue against that point other than noting that such discipline is outside American popular culture. There is hope though, how wonderful it was to have many stores and malls not starting “Black Friday” deals during my Thanksgiving dinner. I smiled at the notion that this year, my family was not running out to stores after our meal together. We became a family of ‘sloths” as the tryptophan effect hit in full stride – just as it should on Thanksgiving. So yes, it was not a time to fight for Advent. I’ll chase that windmill another day.
As long as my high school football coach isn’t reading this, I will admit that I again watched a few Hallmark Christmas movies this past season. Noting that most television shows these days are brainless, it bothers me little that Hallmark movies all have the same plot. I smile at the notion when I actually come across an original theme in a Hallmark movie. Perhaps, that is the wrong way of looking at this. Is the problem the reoccurring theme or, is there a message in a reoccurring theme? Hmm. I began to discern this concept. My wife and I joke at the reoccurring plots yet, aren’t the reoccurring plots simply a reoccurring theme in our own lives? I might not be yet another overworked professional being called home to help on the family farm but, I began to see the link.
We all know the plot. Someone is working too hard and has lost sight of their family values. They work too much and care too little about the world around them. Sadly, I identify with these characters most days. These characters then meet someone who helps them get their priories aligned and after a few bumps and detours, it is “happily ever after” or so the abrupt endings imply. Perhaps, the “happily ever after” is a topic for another day. Yet, if “love trumps all,” let us simply embrace the point. It is not the “love trumps all” that troubles Greg. No, it is getting off the self-imposed merry-go-rounds we let society put us on. It is the “graduate and go make a name for ourselves” that we get into. It is the hoarding of wealth into 401Ks in order to put off enjoying God’s creation today. It is focusing on a later point in our lives when “we have time.” It is in forgetting that this future time is not promised to us nor a bankable commodity. The Gospel doesn’t tell us to put off living until life becomes “convenient.” It tells us to embrace today as a gift from God. It reminds us that when we live lives of faith, tomorrow takes care of itself. It reminds us to live in the moment. All concepts that Greg watches on television without living in his own life the past three decades.
As the Christmas season began to close, in January and not December 26th, it began to occur to me how and often I’ve missed the point. We’ve been pelted with a message of getting our priorities in order for the past 67 days. Hello? Did we pay attention or just let ourselves be dulled in another story of a cute girl falling in love?
Upon noticing this message for myself, my Hallmark mood began to change. Perhaps Greg really does need 4,824 hours of repeatedly reminding him that his priorities are out of alignment. Yet, I would still prefer an occasional manger scene in a Christmas movie but, what if Hallmark can accomplish a feat where others have feared to tread? The sad expense of cable and satellite dishes may be worth it if a channel could actually get us to stop caring about our Outlook calendars and simply spend time at home. Even more radically, what if we turned off our cell phones for a day and focusing on having real conversations with people – would Christmas become magical for us again? Perhaps today, Hallmark can be an updated message of Balaam (Numbers 24:2-17) – a new path for the Star and the Scepter to lead us back to God’s plan of salvation.
Maybe in our need of 67 days of Christmas, as well as those showings again in July, there is a modern interpretation reminding us today that the generation who saw His signs and wonders in Egypt did not enter into the rest of the earthly Promised Land. (Numbers 14:22-23) Isn’t it the same message? The “signs and wonders” of our day are being missed as we attempt to replace the authority from God in our lives. We’ve given it to social media. We’ve given it to Facebook.
Imagine getting our priorities back into the real issue of life – living. Living in the blessings God has graced us with in this life. Too many of us have forgotten this and let society lull us into focusing on false truths and meaningless victories. We’ve taken a bite out of the apple again. And again. And again. We have been unfaithful to the creation God meant us to be. The infidelity of Israel is again a model for us today. Just as the Jews rebelled after coming out of Egypt we too, have been rebelling against the Good News in the name of convenience. How many babies will be killed today because their gift of life is inconvenient for someone? How many opportunities did we miss today to acknowledge the Imago Dei in someone who is hurting? Dare I say, when was the last time we went to Mass on Sunday simply in gratitude for blessings we’ve received in our lives?
Find the peace that we’ve been missing. Our 67 days of Christmas movies should remind us how we’ve again missed the message. Forget the ornaments. Rather, let us embrace the message of love in our lives again.