There's a trend in American consumerism and, to be frank, Americana where as soon as Halloween is over (or in some cases before), most of this country turns its attention toward the Christmas holiday. There are lots of reasons that this phenomenon happens, but the primary one is, to no one's surprise, money. Money, in case you hadn't noticed, rules the American world, what with our obsession with debt and buying all of the things.
Again, it's not a surprise; people spend more money during the Christmas season trying to pervertedly emulate the gifts of the Magi to the baby Jesus (who, by the way, did not give their gifts to the new Christ child until well after the day of his birth) than any other season all year. So it is that consumerism leads the way in forcing our culture to effectively skip over Thanksgiving in order to get to Christmas. Get out of our way, turkey, ham is just around the corner.
This is literally happening, too. Black Friday used to be first thing Friday morning after Thanksgiving. Then it turned into first thing Friday morning. Then it turned into midnight Friday. Then it turned into midnight opening Friday with tents up Wednesday. Now the good deals start Thursday evening (read: stores are open for business).
Americans, then, skip over the one time of year when we are called to stop and be thankful. The greedy nation becomes even greedier when it skips out on time with family, giving thanks for the blessings one has received in the previous year, just to line up at Target to get that $3 DVD.
This poses a pernicious problem for American Christians. The most obvious opposition to an attitude that quickly focuses on the thing to come without wading through the current time is the season of Advent. Advent, in the Christian church, is a period of waiting and preparation. A season in which Christians await the birth of the Christ child, 'preparing the way,' as the prophets proclaimed. And American Christians, faithful disciples of the consumerist mentality our society grinds into our souls, are deeply at fault in the skipping through the waters which were intended to be waded through.
When we participate in the coming Christmas season before it happens (think Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving, house lights hung and powered on, Christmas tunes on the radio), we are caught in a world in which we forget the journey that those who came before us took. Foretold by the prophets of old, Christians participate in the coming of Christ through this period of time we call Advent (from "adventus", Latin for "coming"). Christians live into the story in which they are all a part; the story of a people who were promised a Messiah and then went out proclaiming that that very thing would happen as they had been called to prepare the way for the coming Lord.
The world has seasons. Communities have seasons. Seasons can be times for change. Seasons can and should be times for reflections. Thanksgiving can act as that time for reflection. Christmas can act as that time for reflection, a time when we reflect and give thanks for the good gift humanity was given in Jesus Christ.
But in this current societal (and marketing) trend, American Christians are posed with a unique problem. In a world that encourages us to step past our tradition of reflecting on thankfulness to get to the greed of what has become a consumerist holiday, American Christians ought to be careful just how much they participate. We may go to church and celebrate the period of waiting in Advent (or, as the case likely is, we may not), but if we cannot emulate that within our own lives, we lose the richness and depth of our participation in our own story.
Christians are defined by stories. Faithful Christians today would do well to participate in the stories that define who Christians are instead of being teased and taunted by the cultural stories that desperately want to combat them.
Also: I usually fast forward through commercials. I watch entire seasons of shows on Netflix. I download music automatically on my iPhone, when and where I want (well, not quite anywhere...I have AT&T: Less Bars in More Places). I don't wait for anything. This period of waiting in Advent for the Christian, though, is essential.