Busted Halo

Recent college graduate José Martinez attempts to get back to the true meaning of Advent and prepare properly for Christmas this year, living alternatively to the overwhelming consumerism surrounding him.

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December 26th, 2011

Merry Christmas, Busted Halo readers! Now that Christmas has come and gone, we can look forward to those horrible Lexus commercials wrapping up, at least for another year. I hope next year, their advertising team realizes that they don’t have a recognizable jingle, so commercials like this and this and this and this don’t work. Also, I’m really ready for newscasters to stop opening seasonal segments with “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and…” or, even worse, “Looks like Santa stopped by a local elementary school today…” (Even though it’s nice that Santa dropped by.)

The relief you feel at being able to say “Merry Christmas” when Advent is over is akin to what you feel after Lent’s over and you can say “Alleluia!” (Or “Hallelujah,” if you’re Jeff Buckley or Rufus Wainwright or pretty much any artist because everyone covers that song.) Now we’re in the celebratory season, and why wouldn’t we be? God delivered a baby – in circumstances that even the most faithful of believers would call “fairly miraculous” and “otherwise impossible” – to the world so that God could fulfill on a promise of eternal life. After the reflective season of Advent, which …

December 23rd, 2011

This is my last post before Christmas, and so first things first: I think we can all agree that Alternative Advent was hands-down the best Advent series hosted on Busted Halo in the entire year of 2011. Also, it was the only Advent series hosted on Busted Halo in 2011. And yes, my friends and family have to deal with my saying things like that all the time. Their patience is superhuman.

It’s kind of amazing the effect that writing this blog has had on me this holiday season. When my editor told me it would be all about my efforts to live Advent intentionally, I knew that I’d have to actually live Advent intentionally if I wanted to write anything of meaning. And by that I mean that I knew I wouldn’t be able to fake it – that I wouldn’t be able to lie. (That’s what college creative writing prompts are for.)

And I’m happy that I really tried to delve into this assignment. It was really good for me. The Christmas season, after you take away the gifts and the shopping and the music and the cookies (and the Siberian husky you smuggled into your …

December 19th, 2011

My family really isn’t one for setting traditions in stone. For instance, most years for Thanksgiving, my family will all get together for a traditional turkey dinner, the deliciousness of which is only soured by the fact that I still apparently haven’t earned my spot at the adults’ table. But, there was one year where my family ate Thanksgiving dinner in a Del Taco in Anaheim, California. We were on our way to Disneyland, and our schedule had been thrown off by an unexpected extra two hours of traffic. That was a very testy Thanksgiving.

The same is true for our Christmas traditions — some years my dad will put lights on our house; other years he’ll refrain and then try to get me to put them up when I complain but I’m not falling for that. Sometimes, being San Diegans who are accustomed to temperatures that never go below 63°, we’ll drive out to the mountains where it snows and have a good laugh at how priceless my younger brother’s reaction is when getting pelted by a snowball with a nice rock nestled inside. My mom is actually the only one who is completely consistent with her …

December 16th, 2011

If you keep up with Busted Halo’s Advent Calendar – and why wouldn’t you? – you might have figured out that, while today’s Microchallenge may seem simple enough, it’s actually completely not. Well played, Busted Halo. Here’s what it says:

“Write down the words ‘love,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘patience,’ ‘tolerance’ and ‘forgiveness.’ Next to each of them, write one thing you can do today for yourself or others to express those qualities.”

Here’s what happened.

Love: Because I’m currently trying to figure out what my next step in life is, as are many recent college graduates, I’m living at home. That can be quite the adjustment for a twentysomething who had four years to get used to living independently and according to his own schedule. Also, I don’t know why I’m talking in the third person. But it’s a difficult change – families are nothing if not style-crampers. So, in the spirit of getting closer with my family and to complete the love portion of the Microchallenge, I will be more intentional about a major part of love: honesty. I will tell everyone in my family exactly what I think they should change about themselves and their routines to make my living …

December 15th, 2011

(CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

“I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

Such were the words of John the Baptist (John 1:26-27), the prophet who dedicated his life to a different kind of Advent: preparing as many people as he possibly could for the coming of the Messiah. After centuries of waiting, anticipation and prophecy, John was telling anybody who would listen that the time was nigh — Jesus, the Messiah, was very much here.

Even without that message, though, John would have in all likelihood had no trouble convincing people he was a little bit insane.

I like to think that when Jesus went out to the desert to see who exactly God had sent to stir up the crowds for his arrival, he saw John and, at least at first, kind of looked up to the sky as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For those unfamiliar with John the Baptist, a few points: he snacked on locusts and honey, was generally unkempt and probably didn’t have the most refined preaching …

December 8th, 2011

As I sat on my couch last night watching TV, every once in a while warily eyeing the I kid you not 12 nutcrackers my mom has scattered around our entertainment center, I found myself getting mad at the TV.

I think it started to happen around the fourth time I saw one of those commercials where a husband and wife are engaged in some contrived, stunted dialogue about what she wants for Christmas, and then he breaks out a piece of jewelry and she squeals and loves him a little bit more because every kiss begins with Kay. Or maybe I saw one too many bows atop a Lexus – it’s funny because although that’s how Lexus chooses to convey the Christmas spirit, all those bows make me want to do is key those cars. Irreparably.

I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized I could very easily turn off the TV.

Think about that for minute – it actually had to occur to me to turn off the TV. I guess that’s what happens in a world that’s as plugged in as ours is. Besides, once I turn off the TV and let the room become silent …

December 6th, 2011

It’s a little more than a week into Advent 2011 and I’ve managed to write two posts for this Alternative Advent blog. The first was about my decision to live this Advent a little more intentionally — to really focus on waiting for Jesus’ birth, instead of just looking forward to Christmas. The second was about Joseph’s model of waiting in joyful hope, and how much trust that requires. I figured the third post should update readers on how I’m doing with the whole living Advent intentionally thing. And by that, I mean my editor told me that’s what this post should be about.

I’ll be honest: I’m at a loss. I can say that I’m waiting intentionally all I want, but what does that mean? So far, all that’s done is make me think twice about being excited about putting up a Christmas tree. I’ve also put off listening to Christmas music and watching my favorite Christmas movie of all time, the Jim Carrey version “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” I haven’t gone ice skating or looking at Christmas lights — I haven’t even found the time to roast chestnuts over an open fire. (Although that’s mostly because my …

December 1st, 2011

“As we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” I’ll never forget the cadence and inflection of those words, mostly because I heard them week in and week out for the vast majority of my life. If I’m being honest, those were probably the only words of that entire prayer that I heard during my less mature years, since at the period of my life I spent the rest of the Our Father focused on squeezing my brother’s hand as hard as humanly possible. Don’t act like you didn’t do the same thing.

I think that phrase is a good summary of what Advent is supposed to be about: a joyful waiting period for the birth of Jesus. But hope is the key, because that’s why we’re joyful in the first place. We know that with Jesus and with his message, something better than what we have is coming. What that something is depends on your situation — if you’re me at this very moment, it’s figuring out what to buy my girlfriend for Christmas because I have no ideas. Then again, I’m supposed to be living in the now and not get caught up …

November 28th, 2011

(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

We live in a culture where Christmas commercials start on Oct. 29. Ours is not a culture that knows how to wait.

So when I read the email from my editor that told me that I’d be blogging about my effort to be intentional about living Advent this year, rather than just viewing it as a four-week-long obstacle to Christmas, I waited until the last minute to write my first post. I hope she thought that was as clever as I did – think of it as method writing.

Honestly, my decision to not write the first installment of this assignment immediately upon receiving that email was almost entirely intentional. (Were there also some procrastinatory tendencies at play? Maybe. You’ll never know.) I’m going to try and live this season, which doesn’t become the Christmas season until December 25. Right now, it’s November 28, and it’s Advent, and that means that I’m supposed to be preparing myself for the celebration of the anniversary of baby Jesus’ arrival into the world. And, after 21 Christmases and years of Catholic education, as well as a degree in theological studies under my belt, I realize that I still …

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