Without sounding cliche, I'm finding it hard to believe that today is December 1st. This time of year has crept up on me like never before. I literally feel like it was just the middle of August and we were enjoying summer meals out on the deck. I put the patio furniture away too soon this year. We have been blessed with unseasonably warm weather lately. It hasn't really snowed yet (none that stayed). I'm so thankful that autumn has been lingering. But I have a feeling winter may be right around the corner. But enough about the weather.
I've been thinking about Christmas a lot. It's hard not to, when stores start merchandising for it in September! I actually set up our tree and decorated the house a little bit the other day. It felt weird and fun at the same time. I like the glow of our skinny (fake) tree decorated with ornaments we've collected since we got married. I especially like seeing it from the outside window when I come home.
I've also been thinking about ways to keep Christmas "real" this year. Not giving into the hype and consumerism. I purposely didn't go shopping on black Friday because part of me hates the idea of being one of those people that have to buy the latest thing, scramble to take advantage of "door-buster deals", or check off a list just to get it done and over with, all the while battling rude shoppers and wasting my time just looking for a parking space. The whole scene just doesn't appeal to me. And I don't need anything that badly enough. Don't get me wrong. I love shopping and I love giving gifts, but not at the risk of getting trampled to death or ending up exhausted, angry and annoyed.
In November, way ahead of the Holiday season, our pastor preached about "rethinking Christmas" and keeping Christ at the center of it all, in a series called "Advent Conspiracy." In summary, taken from our church's website: "It seems that there are really two narratives at Christmas - two stories. One is the story from the Bible of a virgin giving birth to the Son of God. That story is all about Jesus. The other narrative is our cultural narrative. That narrative of Christmas isn't really about Jesus; it just uses Jesus for consumption. It is about gifts, stuff, family, stuff, food, and celebration. But Jesus is, in reality, absent from that narrative of Christmas." Click here to view or listen to sermon
The introductory video clip really got me thinking about how I could make Christmas more meaningful. The video stated: "Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful. But instead it becomes shop, shop, shop. Credit cards. Traffic jams. To do lists. Useless gifts. Then off to church. Noel, noel, noel. Sometimes we're just glad to survive it. Did you know Americans spend $450 billion on Christmas every year? So we ask, how did Jesus celebrate? Jesus gave Himself. He gave Himself relationally, incarnation, time, space, presence (do you see where this is going?). What if you bought fewer gifts? That sweater she won't like. That random gift certificate. That toy he doesn't need. Then, instead of buying that, give something valuable, like your time. Talk, eat, sled, bake, bike, read, play, create, craft, together. Make gifts (like when you were a kid). And remember that money you didn't spend? What if you gave some of it away to the poor, the hurting, the lonely, the hungry, the sick, the thirsty."
This has been on my mind ever since. How to make Christmas more meaningful, without spending hours shopping for meaningless gifts. Instead, spending time with family and friends. Doing things together. Giving back to those in need. Helping people. It sounds wonderful. And it sounds easy enough to do. But I'm already feeling "busy" and like my to do list it getting longer. I want to make some gifts (I also want to buy some gifts). I want to bake cookies. I want to listen to Christmas music while candles are glowing. But I really want to celebrate Jesus. And I want to give and make a difference. Even if it's in small ways.
Here's to a more meaningful Christmas and keeping the focus on Jesus!