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Bah, humbug?

December 16, 2013
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One Sunday in Advent always includes the Children’s Music program.

Three Sundays of Advent have now come and gone.  For the past two weeks, this post has been bouncing around in my head, a bit like a pinball.   I kept waiting for that ball to drop into a hole, but no, it just kept bouncing off of things.  I finally have decided enough, so please forgive me if this post bounces around a bit.

I am an Advent slacker this year.  As I prepare for Christmas, I’ve let some things go, really good things in fact, and I feel a bit guilty about it.

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See, this is the first year in two or three we haven’t done a Jesse tree.  In years past, the Jesse tree was a meaningful time for my kids and I–reading a Bible story and a reflection, then hanging an ornament on our small designated Jesse tree.  December 1 came and went I thought about starting late, but I couldn’t do it.  I felt overwhelmed by buying a tree, copying the ornaments, and spending the time doing it.  I struggled with the tension between doing what I felt was important in my children’s faith development and letting go of good things because it was just too much.

This year feels a lot like it’s a list of things we aren’t doing and I am working on letting go of that.  I think all we’ve made good decisions, but I still miss the lights and the endless cookies and the time spent doing the Jesse tree.Lest you think I only gave up on the Jesse tree this year, I’ve given up other things this year.  Those 8 different kinds of cookies I usually make to give away this year to neighbors has been replaced by toffee and party mix.  I love baking, but again, the thought of all that work and time, sent me reeling.  I backed away, telling myself I would make cookies all year long, not just at  Christmas.  Our house is unlit for the first time in since we’ve been in a house.  Even the year Curtis was doing radiation, we managed to get the lights up.  The large ornamental balls are hanging in our tree, but are unlit.  We just couldn’t do it, even though I love Christmas lights—they are a sign of hope for me, light in the darkest part of the year.

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Every year I struggle more and more about how we celebrate Christmas.  I struggled last year and am again this year with the excess.  Everything is excessive in Christmas–the social get togethers, gift giving, eating, drinking.  It’s like we squeeze on all the moment we wish we had all year long into December.  I wonder how this glorifies God.  How does an elaborately decorated (or a homely decorated in our case) Christmas tree point others to God?  How do once a year parties build relationships?  How does eating too much demonstrate how Christ called us to live?

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My little Amish boy.

The middlest did a research on the Amish for school the last few weeks.  We have some Amish in our backyard (one of my grandfathers was born Amish, if you go a little farther back on my grandma’s side you will find Amish too), so we researched how the Amish celebrate Christmas for our heritage project.  The Amish don’t have a Christmas tree or a nativity (because of the commandment “Thou shalt not have any graven images.”).  There are no lights adorning the outside of their house–maybe some candles in windows.  Decorations are candles and greenery.  The gifts are small and the children only get two days off of school (the Amish go to their own schools, so they control their own calendars).  They have two days of Christmas–Christmas and Second Christmas.  Second Christmas is spent eating and visiting relatives and friends.  That’s it.

That seems  more like it to me.  No daily Elf on a Shelf to keep up with (for the record, the beef I have with Elf on the Shelf is that it’s just more work, more stuff, not that it’s pretending Elves are real) or excessive shopping.  There is no excessive decorating or even church services.  It’s just about the birth of Jesus, not about everything else.  With each passing year, this appeals to me more.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the festiveness of Christmas and the lights and the music.  I love it, in fact.  However, I need a break from the hectic that comes with the Christmas preparations.  I need to do the everyday better and fit in the extras as I can, instead of the opposite.

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One thing I have done this year has been to sit down and write a Christmas letter.  I attempt this every other year, which feels like a good balance.  I wrote the first draft bragging profusely of my children’s athletic prowess and cleverness (ok, not really).  I shared our summer trip with everyone and highlights of our year.  Then, I handed it to Curtis to proofread.

It was fine, he said, but what about everything else?  What?  I wondered.  Our best time is lived in the everyday, Curtis pointed out.  Our memories are made on family vacations, but they are also made at home–cooking together, eating dinner together, raking leaves with Isaac, listening to John’s belly laughs, playing together in the backyard, Curtis playing chess with John and Madeleine at the kitchen table, and having friends over to house–both planned and impromptu afternoons on the porch with neighbors.

That’s my Christmas struggles this year.  I get so busy, I lose the ability to experience God in the everyday.  Instead I wait for Christmas day, when I always end up exhausted because someone always wakes up way too early to experience God.  That’s missing the point of Christ’s birth. Jesus came so that we could know God’s love everyday and so that we could share God’s love everyday.  When Christmas preparations get so crazy I can’t take the time to enjoy my children’s dancing to VeggieTales Christmas albums, I am missing out on God’s love.

I am trying harder this year to not leave God behind as I prepare for Jesus’s birth.  I am trying to remember Jesus and God’s presence around me all the time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 16, 2013 10:37 pm

    Oh yes, I hear your heart. As a matter of fact, I feel it, too. Thank you for expressing so eloquently some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head. There is A LOT about Christmas that I don’t do, but my problem comes in when the “I should have done that” thoughts rise up and torment me. Having the confidence and peace that I’ve chosen the best over the merely good is a challenge for me.

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