Lights were switched on in New York City. It was time for the show to begin. This year, the festivities coincide with Ramadan. Our Ramadan is not only shaped by fasting, but by the liturgy: week-by-week, the prayer and readiness of the mosques weave new patterns into the rich pattern of expectation.
Our fasting provide a striking contrast for the few who notice increasingly Christmas seems to start earlier with parties complimented by over feedings, hangovers and boredom of merry makings.
The communal discipline of Ramadan offers a stark challenge to individualistic consumerism. The penitence of lent confronts our self-righteousness. How does the message of Advent meet the need or our age? We live in a time of instant access. The mobile phone, the can of coke and the bag of chips: these are our life-support machines, because we cannot wait for the next conversation or the next meal. Buy now pay latter! The principle is enshrined at every level of society, from the mortgage mansion to the student loan. Our very impatience, ironically, has begun to teach us patience, as overloaded roads and under-funded railways grind to a halt. But we learn slowly: road rage, air rage, train rage and now even pavement rage mark our response to the frustration of our immediate desires.
The hope of advent is neither trivial nor instant. The vindication of justice, the restoration of broken earth, the lasting forgiveness of sin and the irreversible presence of Allah among us: these are indeed serious hopes. They are far too big for instant consumption: are we ready for this? We need its focus: are we attending to this? We need its variety: have we savored the richness of this? We need its challenge: dare we hope for something that is truly worth waiting for?
It is not a chance that makes us ignorant of our religion and expert in showbiz. Like nervous schoolchildren, we avoid the context that will force us to face difficult questions. We ignore Ramadan, just as we debase advent, not through mere isolation, or stupidity, or laziness. Our shared failure is a failure of courage.