Image copyright Lisa M. Hendey Image copyright Lisa M. Hendey

Last night, I was minding my own business in the adult beverage aisle of my local warehouse store when it popped out at me: the Beer Advent Calendar.

I'd already walked past the artificial Christmas trees and toy aisles and had noticed an entire section of gift cards in bulk. Since I'm not one of those "decorate early" types, it had been pretty easy for me to ignore the coming of the "holiday season" so far this month. I'd even been largely blissfully unaware about the dreaded Starbucks cup situation.

But when I saw the 2015 Beer Advent Calendar there mammothly sitting on the shelf, I have to say I immediately stopped in my tracks. My first thought was to reach out to my good friend Sarah Vabulas, author of The Catholic Drinkie's Guide to Homebrewed Evangelism for a consult. Sarah's my "go to" consultant for all things beer related. But she's also one of the most faith-filled women I know. Her advice convinced me to avoid putting the huge box into my already overstuffed shopping cart.

But then I took the next step of taking a photo and sharing the Beer Advent Calendar on social media. And as it turned out, quite a conversation ensued in a few different places. A few clicks led me to the Beer Advent Calendar's own Facebook page, which already has over 4,500 likes.

All this Beer Advent Calendar media mania started me thinking about the various other odd Advent calendars I've seen like the Lego ones that come in many various themes, the Christmas Beard Oil Advent Calendar (I'm not kidding!), or the Personalized Dog Bone Advent Calendar. Somehow, counting down the days of December has become a cottage industry.

What are we Catholics--who actually begin the Advent season this year on Sunday, November 29th--to make of all of these various ways of marking the season? Are they good fun, intended to personalize our excitement for the coming holiday? Or are they yet another sign of the commercialization of a sacred holy season?

Are they a spiritual tool to share our faith in fun and creative ways, or a sacrilege and a disrespect of something sacred?

The helpful website Catholic Culture, in an article on the history of Advent, calls Advent calendars one traditional way to anticipate Christ's birth. So is there a difference between using a calendar with small doors which open to reveal a piece of chocolate and using one which offers 24 microbrews? Perhaps I would have been more tempted to purchase the Beer Advent Calendar if it had featured a scene of the nativity on the front of the box instead of a German street scene...

I'd love to hear your thoughts on my basic question: is the Advent Beer Calendar a spiritual tool (a way to share our faith with others during the season of Advent), or a sacrilege (something that violates the sacred)? Tell me what you think in the comments here, or vote in my Twitter poll here. I'll share my "take" in the comments below after a few others have chimed in, so comment if you want to hear what I really think.

Copyright 2015 Lisa M. Hendey