Is it as easy for you as it is for me, to get burnt out by the most wonderful time of the year? Good intentions get carried away, so that by the time Boxing Day rolls around on December 26, what felt at first to be miraculous and sacred has been cheapened somehow and needs to be put off for another year. As a Christian, who wasn’t always a Christian, I am at odds with my own self and my reasons for celebrating and enjoying all that Christmas has to offer. Snow, lights, sparkly things, leafy garland, tasty food, candles that smell like tasty food, gifts given and received, carols sung and played all over everywhere? All of those things? Yes please. I want to enjoy all of those things as much as possible until I can no longer stand them. I want to binge on what the holidays do to my senses. And I do. Shamelessly.
But I know that none of them have anything to do with Christmas. With the birth of Christ, which is what the very word “Christmas” even means. With angels and ordinary man, kings and commoners, signs in the stars, and the most ridiculous baby shower ever in the history of babies, because who seriously brings myrrh to the party? I’ve never given birth in a barn or had to run away with my babies to another country or had to trust God with the most sensitive parts of my reputation. I’ve never had to do those things. I don’t think it was a very silent night and I am fairly certain that nobody tied off the baby Jesus’ umbilical cord with tinsel or served Mary a post birth snack of gingersnaps and egg nog.
What have we done to Christmas?
And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Because this season and time of year are so wonderful, so really and truly beautiful and full of delight. And we have centered it around a revered Holy Day in the church’s liturgical calendar which has nothing whatsoever to do with the half of what we’ve tied it to.
So I pray. I pray and I thank God for how the seasons change in this part of the world. I thank Him for ice skates and hot chocolate and lights put up in dark, cold winter, just like I thank Him for air conditioning and road trips and the backyard sprinkler in hot, busy summer. I remind myself that while I don’t believe there are any spirits attached to my fake tree and leafy garland the way ancient pagans did, it is still nice to have something green and lifelike inside when it’s too cold for anything to grow outside. That the lights on my tree remind me of the Light of the World. That I think snowflakes and deer and owls and pine cones are pretty things to have in the house when all I see out my window is snow. And that things that bring people together for good, are good things indeed.
Then we get Christmas right in the smack of it. A time to look around at the season (whatever that may look like in your corner of the world) we’re in, both on the calendar and in our lives, and to reflect on the gift of Christ in us and in whatever it is we’re going through. Not every Christmas is sparkly and lovely, and that is the Christmas that Jesus was born into and came for. For the world that likes to pretend that we can hold onto things that don’t last; where we place value in and fight for the wrong things half the time. A world that hurts and grieves and doesn’t know what it’s doing.
The only way I can think to reconcile this Holy Day with the holidays, is to act on it. To teach my kids that we are walking a line always, in this world with our crazy faith. Even at Christmas. I am thankful for the church calendar, that all churches follow whether they consider themselves liturgical or not – because we celebrate Christmas and observe Good Friday and rejoice at Easter all based on a liturgy that many aren’t even aware of. Who even knows when Jesus was really born anyways? That’s not so much the point is it?
Our family’s way of merging life and liturgy this year is to choose each day, an act of kindness or generosity or of anything that honors this time of Advent. Of waiting for Jesus to come. Our kids have those chocolate countdown calendars and we have a family Advent calendar with scripture and activities. Somehow we are going to bring it all together and see Jesus in it like we try to with everything else.
I was also going to come up with a list of things for us to do each day, but changed my mind. Partly because I waited too long and then got a migraine the day I needed to put together our Advent calendar. Partly because I felt like I needed to wait and see what we were supposed to do. So instead, we are going to choose an Act of Advent each day together. We are going to be mindful and purposeful in finding ways to give and bless and encourage and love people. Because God first loved us. Because we have something to give. Because we don’t want to be burnt out this year – we want to be joy filled.
Update: We had planned on keeping a running list of what kind of acts of advent we’d come up with each day, but it’s been more random and less intentional than I would have liked. However, the kids have been totally engaged and enjoying their Advent study that Glenn has been leading them in. We have found Bible study/devotions to be kind of hit or miss, and that may be because we’ve been too casual about it or just because the timing for more in depth study wasn’t right for us yet. Advent this year has really shifted something, and it’s too early to tell what, but I can hear it in their questions and responses. Good things are rising up in them. I’m looking forward to continuing this time as a family into the new year.
Some of the acts of advent we have come up with so far:
-Giving to the food bank
-Letting someone else go ahead in line at the grocery store
-Writing a card to a friend
-Giving away some of their nice but unused toys
-Some unspoken things that we will just keep a secret
-Writing nice cards to their teachers (I usually do this, so seeing them do it was very nice.)
-Inviting people over for dinner
Seeing my kids looking for ways to share and be generous with each other has been an unexpected, but truly lovely added bonus to this holiday season. These are values we are always working on, and that they do try their best with, but they seem to be trying a little harder all as a result of increased time reading, praying, and talking together. What a gift that is and one we can take with us after Advent is complete.
copyright (c) Jenna Pelias 2014 // all rights reserved