I was re-reading a C.S. Lewis book last night and came across this passage:
"And no sooner is it possible to distinguish the rite from the vision of God than there is a danger of the rite becoming a substitute for, and a rival to, God Himself. Once it can be thought of separately, it will; and it may then take on a rebellious, cancerous life of its own. There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas and Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen'. This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer be sacramental. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life." from "Reflections on the Psalms", pp.48-9.
Reading this now at the beginning of the annual "Christmas rush" it struck me that our society has largely chosen the ritual over the spiritual. Think of the controversies the last few years over the euphemisms being promoted over names of items associated with Christmas--"holiday trees" and "Winter Break" are only a couple. Some want to keep the festival while discarding the Reason for it. But removing the spiritual element also removes the moral restraint, and so the festival becomes one of excess and overindulgence. And once that pattern takes over, it always escalates; it always takes more and more to keep up the pretense of satisfying the urge, because our people have chosen the Lesser and are trying to fill up the void left when we rejected the Greater.