The Baltimore Sun is reporting that many chain retailers such as Walmart and Target are reverting to "Merry Christmas" this year rather than the generic "Happy Holidays." I guess most Americans were not yet ready for an all-inclusive, politically-correct, post-Christian holiday.

It still disturbs me, though, that the Holy Day of celebration for Jesus' birth has become an orgy of Mammonism. I don't think Jesus approves of our materialistic consumer Christmas habits.

Neither does the Church, really. We soon will begin the season of Advent with its purple cloths on pulpit and table. Traditionally Advent was a season of self-examination and repentance (every feast day had its penitential prelude, best known being Lent before Easter). (more below)

The traditional Scripture readings for the First Sunday in Advent will begin with reminders of the Second Coming and the need to be ready. This year's Common Lectionary readings are Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; I Thessalonians 3:9-13; and Luke 21:25-36. The Luke passage reads And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is domin on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things gegin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption if drawing near.

The next Sunday traditionally has featured Scriptures telling the story of John the Baptizer, who called for repentance in no uncertain terms. This year's readings are Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6.

Our culture wants to skip the penitential step and start celebrating in late fall.