Our town just celebrated Trick or Treat. For weeks the stores have been hawking costumes both cute and horrid in anticipation of the Big Event. Trick or Treat is the custom associated with Halloween where kids head out to fill their bags with oodles of goodies.
My kids are too old to go Trick-or-Treating but they still get excited as the day arrives. They get a kick out of meeting the eager porch gremlins. They also look for an opportunity to grab a snack for themselves from our stash of Treats.
The run up to the holiday with all its anticipation can last a week or more and then in a mere two hours it’s over. The porch lights go out, the streets empty and the supply of snacks disappears. As the blood sugar spike ends your energy crashes and along with it the euphoria of the long-awaited day ebbs to nothing. A period of quiet waiting begins until the next Big Day- Thanksgiving.
The anticipation around Thanksgiving is different than for Halloween. On Thanksgiving there are the Parades, the Football games or the Dog Show on television. There’s the family gathering for the feast and a chance to just be together. And even though it may last hours longer than Trick-or Treat Night, Thanksgiving comes to an end with only the piles of dirty dishes to remind you of it.
But with the end of Thanksgiving we begin to anticipate Christmas. For those of us here in the U.S.A. Christmas excitement may begin sometime before Trick-or-Treat thanks to the commercials on television trying to convince us to Shop Till We Drop. Around Thanksgiving they begin to show the Christmas Specials like A Charley Brown Christmas or my favorite The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. No Christmas Season is complete without The Miracle on 34th Street EXCEPT it is NOT yet Christmas Season. Christmas season begins on Christmas Eve, December 24th, and goes on for twelve full days until the Epiphany. However unlike Halloween which disappears after two hours or Thanksgiving whose remnants may last until the next day when you finally get the kitchen cleaned, Christmas decorations should remain present until Candlemas Day also known as the Presentation of the Lord, forty days after Christmas.
Most of us seem to spend our lives looking forward to the next Big Thing. Be it a Holiday, a Birthday, a Wedding or Anniversary. It may be the World Series, the Super Bowl or the World Cup. We look forward to happenings that momentarily distract us from our daily routines and drudgeries. For a few hours or days our lives are mostly filled with Excitement or Peace and Joy (except for those who succumb to depression during the holidays).
What we all are looking for is fulfillment in our lives where our hearts, actually our souls, are at total Peace. In our celebrations here on Earth we find it partially and briefly. But as Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee O God.”
According to Augustine only in Heaven will we find what we are looking for in all our longing here on Earth. If we accept this as fact then we must ask ourselves, am I preparing myself accordingly. Compared to the effort we put into getting ready for Trick-or-Treat, Thanksgiving or Christmas, compared to the planning we did for Our Wedding or our vacation, how does our preparation for our last and most momentous trip compare?
All of us will journey through Death. Some of us will arrive in Heaven where our Peace and Fulfillment is Eternal. Failure to properly prepare for this journey can cause one to end up in place that is not so hot (sarcasm intended).
The problem with Heaven is it requires us to die to get there and no one really wants to think about that for weeks, or days or even for a couple of hours. The thought of our death creeps most of us out.
We are schizophrenic about it, we can’t wait for the bliss of heaven, for seeing our loved ones again and being happy forever but we don’t want to talk about the “D” word. We even use euphemisms like Passed on or Went to Sleep. For those with a morbid sense of humor we may say Pushing Up Daisies, Sleeping With the Worms or Assumed Room Temperature. Any phrase can work as long as it’s not Death or Dead!
But in reality, if we live our lives according to God’s Plans for us, we should look forward to our death with more anticipation than any other celebration on Earth. For with death we receive the Gift That Keeps On Giving, The Joy That Never Ends and A Peace Beyond Telling.