Stores began selling Christmas items long before Thanksgiving, and even Black Friday has been pushed up to attract bargain seekers. Each year, the messages and peddling of items seem to come earlier and earlier.
Sometimes it feels as if it's all too much: too much shopping, too much noise, too much running around during a season that's supposed to bring us peace.
Is there a way to avoid or to attack that hectic, stampeding effect that the business sector pushes on us during the Christmas season? Sure there is. But how? There is one way an author found effective.
In the book "A Eucharistic Christmas," Louise Pare says that she told God she would do anything he asked of her if he could set her spiritual life on fire during the holidays. She said she thought God's answer would be something big and dramatic such as a 40-day fast or a call to sell all of her possessions. Instead, the answer came quickly and quietly: Start going to Mass one day during the week.
Pare goes on to ask an important question about seeking God during Christmas and Advent: "Why focus on the Eucharist at this busy time of the year?"
For some, even the busiest among us, it can provide a touchstone necessary to get through the day or through important moments in work or life. At daily Mass on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Supreme Court justices, congressmen or congresswomen, and staff always are in attendance, as are others from various prestigious institutions.
I always marvel at how they find time in their busy schedules to attend Mass and to remain in the church after Mass to meditate. The marvel is that God is the most important part of their daily life even though they're in the limelight constantly. Emmanuel is their chief consultant in dealing with national and world problems. It is he who blesses them with composure by drawing them away from the hectic world, enabling them to stroll while others are stampeding.
Perhaps it is impossible to attend daily Mass where we live or work. That doesn't have to stop us.
When we celebrate feasts of great churches like the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, we are reminded that we have many sacred temples. All we need do is to take time to enter their doors in silence and be with Emmanuel, if only for a few minutes.
And this is the one "great deal" that you can't live without this Christmas.
FATHER HEMRICK IS A COLUMNIST WITH THE CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE.
FatherEugene Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service