Let’s establish this first: It is not the Christmas season yet.
At least, not in any kind of religious way. 
The Christmas season begins on Christmas.
Right now is Advent. It is the time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
A time of introspection. A time to reflect on the growing darkness around it, and the hope that the light will come again.
That last part is important. Hope – not certainty – that the light will come again, even as darkness floods our vision.
It is a metaphor for death.
We are meant to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Messiah – for their birth – in this season.
It is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the experience of encountering the Divine after darkness covers our vision. When we take our last breath, and hope that there is light at the end of our swiftly tunneling vision.
Is it any wonder that the West (and particularly Americans) have transformed it into a bacchanalia instead?
We live in a society where it is nearly rude to say that someone has died. They have departed. Moved on. Laid to rest.
Rather than take this season to reflect, to let the reality of dead trees remind us of our own mortality, to allow the fallow fields to remind us of eventual destruction and the hope of regrowth and rebirth, we do our best to turn night into day. We avoid contemplation, instead gathering in loud parties and comparing ugly sweaters.
This behavior is not a refutation of the cycles of death, destruction, and rebirth.
It is pretending that you will actually eat those leftovers in the fridge. Pretending that winters are just as snowy as you remember them as a child. Pretending that the problems between you and your partner will just work themselves out.
It is pretending that lump you found while showering will go away on its own.
It is avoidance. It is lying to yourself.
That is what all the lights this month are for. What all the cheery carols stand for. Why there’s parties and drinking and celebration before the thing they’re meant to celebrate.
That is why some people are threatened by the existence of any other celebration at this time.
That is why they think the mere acknowledgement of anything else is some kind of attack.
It is hard to pretend when you keep getting distracted from your distraction.
There need to be mysteries in faith. Without that mystery, that uncertainty, there is no faith.
Uncertainty is humbling. It is horrifying if you contemplate it for too long.
And that is why there is the hope of faith. Faith does not provide certainty. Faith provides hope in the face of uncertainty.
That faith may be in a God. In a Messiah. That everything happens for a reason. That the ideals of equality and human dignity will prevail. That we can create our own meaning in a nihilistic universe. Faith is the same in every case.
Faith is the hope that, as darkness falls, the light will some day return.
Do not hate our fellows who scream and wail about false wars on their distractions.
Empathize with them. Pity them, even.
They are afraid, just as we all are, as we all have been.
And they need help growing their faith enough to let them avoid the distractions and truly prepare themselves for the return of the light.
To hear once again “Do not be afraid.”
Featured Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash
 I don’t mean the fact that shepherds would not be sleeping with their flocks in Palestine in December (the lows can get in the 40’s°F/single digits °C) like the Gospels say, or the way the timeline doesn’t match up with documented historical events. Sure, it’s a spring event celebrated instead of Saturnalia, whatever. This applies regardless, and even if you’re an atheist.