By Tom Ehrich

Annals of modern life:

Mover A sent an estimator to my apartment. He arrived two hours late, mouthing excuses, and sent me a quote of $1,800. Mover B did an estimate over the telephone and sent me a quote of $1,100, some $700 lower than the first. Easy decision here.

A new market opened across 54th Street, designed to serve young hipsters moving into the Mercedes Tower. I bought a box of cereal for $7.99. Later I checked the same item at another store: $5.99. Online it's $5.38. Another easy decision.

I read a church newsletter filled with church-talk about Advent and a season of "waiting." I read a second church's newsletter filled with news of action: feeding, housing, clothing, marching. Another easy decision.

Seeing things side by side can be illuminating. We can see differences of cost, quality, value. Even more, we can see differences of meaning. Not everything can be quantified, of course, but I think we can recognize the difference between artificial and real, between a church looking inward on its rituals and a church looking outward on a troubled world.

I don't get worked up about "holiday shopping." Shoppers gonna shop. But endless ads and dancing smartphones make it easier to recognize the inestimable value of family around a fireplace.

I personally am violating the Advent canon and listening to Christmas music every chance I get. With right-wing bigots on full automatic these days, I need the beauty of Celtic Woman singing "O Holy Night" and the brave assurance of souls feeling their worth.