I don’t think ‘envy’ or ‘jealousy’ fuels the reaction to one of my least-favorite holiday-themed TV ads in 2016.
Maybe you’ve seen it: The short spot in which Mommy is depicted as manipulating Darling Daughter’s letter to Santa…so that she (they?) get the keys to a swell new luxury car on Christmas Day.
The pitch is clever, I’ll admit…and rich in engaging detail. (You gotta love Mommy’s inspired use of glitter…) Still, on the whole, I find that the ad’s entire spirit is grotesque…and offensive.
And maybe that’s the thing I dislike most about the ad: the fact that it offends me.
I’ve learned through the years that whenever I take offense, it typically signals a deeper malady festering—something that needs attention in my soul. In this case, I suspect the culprit is desire—so flagrantly on display in the Mommy’s manipulation…and (if I’m honest) so deeply at work influencing my own quotidian motivations.
Advent reminds us that the problem is not desire itself…but the quality of our desire.
Jesus seems to touch on this spiritual deficiency in the gospel reading we hear proclaimed for the Third Sunday of Advent.
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John [the Baptist], “What did you go out to the desert to see? … Someone dressed in fine clothing? Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces. Then why did you go out?
It’s easy to get misled by the trappings of power and prominence…and perhaps even by luxury rides.
But Advent invites us to do a deeper dive into our desires—beyond the temptations of materialism—it seems to me. As Philip Sheldrake observes in writing about the process of conversion, ‘I have found that the hardest thing is not to choose between good and bad, but between what is good and what is better.’
What do we go out to the desert to see?
Perhaps it’s something like this: a reminder that the Self always puts up a terrific fight—it never goes quietly into the night.
And that, in preparing to welcome the Newborn King, the quality of our desire can be made new. It can be reoriented…to draw us toward the Lord, the only Reality that forever fill our hearts with joy.
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.