I've seen the signs that Christmas is coming. Shopping centres have tinsel everywhere, we've started buying gifts and Starbucks have rolled out the red cups and the "seasonal" music on repeat. Days are shorter and the deepest of winter is getting nearer.
It's still the first half of November.
Since we got married, each year has brought a few more decorations, a bit more time and effort spent on the tree, a few more twinkling lights. I play the humbug, but the truth is that I love it. I love the carol services and the decorations and the music and trees and lights. I wish it would snow on Christmas day and I get that daft, growing excitement as Advent rolls into Christmastide.
But not yet, because it's still the first half of November.
I won't rail about the de-Christianising of Christmas — that's just silly. Christians are just one group who feast in late December; the bottom of the year can't but be a significant point in any calendar. More than that, we can't pretend that Christmas hasn't become a cultural event completely apart from our remembering the Incarnation, however deeply our culture has a Christian seed somewhere in its past.
(Not saying that's not the heart of the season for me, but there's more than me around, y'know.)
This is my question: what does it say about our need for celebration and a little joyfulness that the preparation and decoration and everything else was starting in mid-October, more than two months before Christmas day? We're desperate for something, aren't we?
Do we run the risk of being heartily sick of it all by December 25th? What good does a celebration do us when it's been diluted down to nothing?
Think about it, and I'll come back to you in a few weeks. Advent is my favourite season, after all.