I see you there, strolling (sprinting?) through the grocery aisle at Safeway and Trader Joe’s, eyeing the floral extravaganza with pumpkins and gourds of every shape and size. Who knew God could make squash in so many colors?!
Fall is here and the season of quiet and slowing down, sunlight simmering at the edge of our days as God reminds us to a c t u a l l y slow down (because who can work or play in the dark?)
Yes, harvest time, Halloween and Thanksgiving are around the corner, rich with abundance and family and sigh, sometimes way too much to do. Then, before you blink, it’ll be Christmas.
My friend Kris Camealy once said about the holidays, “Christmas comes whether we’re ready or not.” Lately (like forever, it seems) the celebration sneaks up on us before we have a chance to actually b e ready and we miss the wonder and the magic and the power of it altogether.
Safeway may have a plethora of pumpkins, Trader Joe’s its spiced cider mix and organic produce, but you don’t have to look far, no matter where you are, to see the gaudy mix of Christmas doodads and decorations. Already? Really?
The problem with Christmas, if I may be so bold, is that we have made it about one day of all those presents, when what we really need is a way to usher in the presence of God. What if we celebrated the holiday season by preparing, in the waning days’ light that welcomes the dark, by making room for Jesus to come? Not just in our homes with the decorations and the parties and the food and the planning, but in our hearts?
Hundreds of years ago Christmas was a religious festival that began with Advent four weeks prior to December 25th and ended on Epiphany, January 6th. Advent this year begins on December 2nd, not the 1st day of December as those chocolate-laden calendars would have you believe.
Epiphany marks God’s appearance to the Gentiles–the Magi–after he first appeared to the shepherds and his parents. Advent readies us for Christmas–offers a way to mark the successive Sundays with its watchwords–Wait, Prepare, Rejoice and Love–providing a pause so desperately needed. The church calendar, centered around the life of Christ and the life of the church, can order our lives and frame our days.
The 12 days after Christmas were also traditionally celebrated as Twelvetide and provided a slow nudge to the other side of the year, a way to wind down the celebrations of Christmas and go into the world with the good news. We have seen the Saviour and we want the world to know.
How can we make this happen? How do we weave a space for wonder back into our days?
Well, if I may again be so bold, there is a book that will help–mine. A slim, red and white volume called Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas that addresses these festivals and introduces them to readers in a simple way. As a #cluelessEvangelical whose faith did not include any reference to the church calendar (or church year) I have found the discovery of these Christian observances to be the perfect key that unlocks some of the craziness of the Christmas season.
How? By anchoring the weeks before and after the holiday with intentional observances that spread out the energy over more than 30 days, an arc of the church year that includes Christ’s birth. Rather than Christmas morning being the pinnacle of All the Presents (often with a tumble and crash on the other side) Christmas can be a season of the heart that slows us down. A little.
Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas is full of personal stories and practical tips about what to do regarding Santa Claus and our Savior. How do we manage budgets and giving? Do my decorations need to look like a Macy’s store window? And what about those Magi kings?
Weaving in the liturgy and tradition of the church year with contemporary practices of Christmas, Living the Season Well shows you how to slow down and savor the season.
And if you’re feeling rushed already, maybe today is a good day to pause a bit and consider–what do I think about Christmas and how I can make it more about Christ? Thinking becomes planning becomes practice. Pondering now how to walk into the coming busy season may help alleviate the crunch and crash of Christmas. You can find a way to make room for Jesus’ arrival this year.
My book and many others will show you how. Signed copies are available directly from me for $10 (includes tax and shipping–just use the form below) or you can order them HERE.
I promised you 3 ways to wonder; here are 2 more:
- This is actually a list of many lovely, inspiring books (including God With Us, pictured) and music for the Advent season. Sarah Clarkson, author of Bookgirl, Oxford student and curator of the website Thoroughly Alive, has curated this wonder-full list.
- The Circle of Seasons, Meeting God in the Church Year–is in its 10th year. This is my friend Kimberlee’s book, a perfect gateway text to learn more about the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany then walk into the new year–its days of Ordinary Time. Perfect for #cluelessEvangelicals. Smile.
There you have it–3 ways to wonder. Are you ready? You can be.
Start small and start now.
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