Have you ever had to move house during the Christmas season? How much fun is that, eh? Several years ago our family participated in the journey to a new land during the holidays and I discovered something.
It’s impossible to celebrate a “normal” Christmas when your living room is crowded with moving boxes. That wasn’t my discovery. No. The good news I found was that surrendering my ideas of what Christmas “should” look like left space for God to surprise our family beyond what we could imagine. I was forced to adjust to a new season as I viewed things, not as I dreamed they would be, but the way they were. My ideas of what-was-to-come–a new home, settling in, making it my own–kept me going through those few months.
Oddly enough, as I looked around at our temporary rental, the empty walls and barely-furnished rooms greatly improved my mental state, making it easier to ‘see’ the future. Although I felt untethered and impatient, desperate to begin nesting in our new home, the emptiness created room for waiting.
The focus and intent of the Advent season is just that, providing space to wait—physically, spiritually and mentally—to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Maybe like me, your thoughts about Advent are tied to those consumer-driven Advent calendars, the ones that start on December 1st. Actually, the first day of Advent is different and changes every year; this year it’s December 3rd.
I was recently surprised to learn that Advent was originally a period of fasting in preparation for the feast of the Nativity (now Christmas) and was practiced in some form as early as 400 A.D. Unfortunately for us, Advent as a season of fasting and reflection has all but disappeared from many church landscapes. Advent has been defined, instead, as the number of shopping/party/activity days there are until Christmas, and thus, our gift-driven Advent ‘calendars.’
The practice of fasting seems like a shocking suggestion prior to the rich celebration of Christmas. But it makes sense when you think about it. Letting go, putting off or making room for one thing makes space for something else. Like the empty walls in my new rental house, extra space can help us “see” better without all the distractions. When the too-much of Christmas presses in, it helps to make room for the joy we crave by saying ‘no’ to what we don’t need.
Instead of the usual going without food, fasting during Advent can simply be a variation of giving up, putting off, setting aside or laying down. All these provide a way to make room for Jesus in our soul and spirit, where we are hungriest. Because, goodness knows, there are so many other things that want to “feed” us. Too much of anything can fill me so full that I never know I’m hungry. The Christmas season provides the greatest number of opportunities to drive this lesson home. Thousands of sparkly doodads, an overabundance of rich food, an explosion of visual input from every possible screen in the universe…
To read the rest of this post, join me at the “Simplify the Season” Blog Party. Terryn Whitfield is the host at Just a Simple Home and has rounded up 30 great bloggers sharing messages about the season of Christmas.