Advent (1): Whose birthday is it, anyway?

We live at a point in time when our lives seem to be dictated by two exceptional forces – sheer speed and precious time.

Hence, we think on our feet, take quick showers, gulp down instant coffees and sprint to the train stations and multi-task at work. Satellite television brings us the news as it’s unfolding anywhere in the world in real time. It is indeed a rare breed who can say he or she is either happily “offline”, out of the rat race or actually stops to smell the roses!

For many of us I suspect, Christmas is also subject to the same conditioning – cleaning, changing, cooking, decorating, shopping, buying, giving and etc. Even our priests can vouch it’s one of the busiest times of the year. There’s the liturgy, homilies, confessions, carols, social outreach programs, home visitation for the sick and home bound to cater for among others.

We tend to get caught up in the frenetic rush toward Christmas that often we miss the opportunity of Advent – a whole 4 weeks – as a time for slowing down, taking stock of what’s happening in our lives and the world around us, and pondering upon the coming of the Christ – back then, now and in the future.

It may be true that the world we live in today doesn’t really afford us the time and space to do so. However, by the same token, it would also seem very lame to simply follow the crowd, plead ignorance or remain apathetic – especially when we feel something’s not quite right with the present scenario.

Maybe the following story by the Rev. Fred Henry of Calgary can help illustrate the whole meaning of “missing” Christmas a little better:

In the land of puzzling tales there lived an eight-year-old boy named Jason. Now in this land and in the neighbourhood where Jason lived, the unexpected always happened.

Instead of football, they played knee ball; instead of children going to school, the teachers went to homes. In the summer time, it was not uncommon to see the water freeze, in the wintertime, leaves grew on the trees. It was a strange place.

One incident in the land of puzzling tales stands out – Jason’s ninth birthday. As usual, the unusual happened. Jason’s grandparents came from their home across the province to help celebrate. When they got to Jason’s neighbourhood, they went to the Brown’s house down the street and stayed there.

When Jason’s mother baked a birthday cake, she gave it to the letter carrier to eat.

When the neighbourhood kids heard it was Jason’s birthday, they exchanged gifts with one another and, of course, Jason got none.

There was a blizzard of birthday cards. The post office had to hire extra workers to handle the deluge of cards. Of course, in the land of puzzling tales the expected was unexpected, and all the kids, the moms and dads, the grandparents, and even a couple of dogs and a parakeet got cards, while poor Jason got none.

Finally, about nine o’clock that night, in a fit of frustration and anger, Jason went out and borrowed the school cheerleader’s megaphone, rode up and down the street on his unicycle and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Whose birthday is it, anyway?”

The night was so silent that the echoes bounced for hours off the mountainsides: “Whose birthday is it, anyway?”

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