Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On letting Christmas happen to you.

New Years Day 2012.  I found myself standing the wake of Christmas 2011.  I had left a trail of wrapping paper, bank statements, and chocolate fondue pots all through the month of December.  And I was exhausted. All I had to show for the Advent season were bags under my eyes, a new bathrobe, and a husband that knew better than to talk to me until I had my first three cups of coffee.

Hindsight can be hard on a girl. I should have smelled Christmas coming around the bend in November.  I should have forecasted it as I swallowed my last bite of pumpkin pie. I should have noticed how the month of December in our calendar was blacked out by office parties, church gatherings, and family celebrations. It was disguised in the taste of Starbucks peppermint mochas and shopping lists, but I should have known. Christmas was coming like a big, fat, overwhelming tidal wave…and I would be swept away.  Christmas 2011 was going to wash over me, knock me around a few times and leave me on the shores of 2012, wondering what had just occurred. 

 Christmas was going to happen to me. 

In November everything it made sense.  This is what the Advent season is about. Tradition.  Family. Community.  Schedule all these things for optimum Christmas experience.  Check.  Then there are pancakes with Santa. Wait.  Also, let’s not forget about the annual Christmas cookie exchange. The craft fair. Choir rehearsals. Grab bags. White elephants. Then December hit.  I burned out the first week.  As we walked through all that we had previously scheduled, I realized it was too much.  My Batmobile had lost a few wheels, but I kept moving.  For the sake of face-saving, for good will towards all and all that.

All these well intentioned things left us in a candy cane induced stupor, stumbling into church Christmas morning.  I was wound tightly, after cooking our traditional breakfast, opening gifts, packing our Jeep full of more yuletide goodness for another family celebration, and outfitting my children in their matching Christmas attire.  I recall feeling inconvenienced that Christmas was on a Sunday. Seriously, I had so much to do.  Celebrating the birth of Christ didn’t really keep with our schedule.

And there it was. 

Laid bare, like an ugly sore airing itself out.  As I sat for the first time in days, I was overwhelmed by a holy sadness.  I had missed it.  In all my fa-la-la’ing, in all my egg nog drinking and outfit coordinating, I had missed Him.  My Jesus, born to a teenage girl without an epidural in a dirty stable two thousand years ago.  The birth that changed the History of Everything.  In my frenzied state of chaos, I had dropped my gaze from Jesus and fixed my eyes on whatever was before me.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.  Especially at Christmastime.

I am ever learning.

I know that Christmas time calls for a posture of holiness.  A time that is set apart from all other times.  A time to remember our Infinite God contained in a swaddling babe.  Let’s not pretend like we have wrapped our minds around that last sentence. FULLY GOD.  FULLY DIAPERED.  Should all things Christmas point towards this Miracle? Um, yes. We, as believers that this Event did indeed change the History of Everything, should face our Advent Season head on.  Eyes fixed.  Hearts set. But what does that look like?  When we are standing in November, red sharpies poised towards December, how do we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus?

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” She had just given birth, for the first time, in a barn-like atmosphere. She was unwed.  Mary was a baby herself.  She had strange visitors in the stable, shepherds and men of nobility who confirmed what Gabriel had told her months before. This child she had just birthed was indeed the Messiah her people had been waiting for.  What a rush! Mary’s response?  She treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  She didn’t tweet about it.  She didn’t make birth announcements on Snapfish.  She treasured her good news.  She pondered that this little baby, borne of her own body, was going to Save her world.  And the rest of mankind.  No big deal.  

I want to be like Mary.  I want to create space in my life to ponder.  I want the opportunity to treasure the Good News that I have been given.  I want to stay calm in the flurry of the Advent season, eyes fixed on Jesus.  For me, that will take the form of more white spaces on our December calendar.  I am committed to protecting set times for reflection and restoration. 

I am going to have to learn to be okay with disappointing people, with breaking tradition so that my heart can be aligned with the One who made it.  I am going to plan meaningful moments and conversations with my children and husband that point towards our Jesus.  I am not going to rush through gatherings, mind already on the next event.  I am going to take those opportunities to look my family members in the eyes and encourage their hearts when we speak.  My husband and I are going to be purposeful with our gifts this year, knowing that all things Christmas should point towards the miracle that is Christ Jesus.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so.  Let us treasure what we Know.  Let us ponder how to make this Advent season one in which all things point towards the Promise we hold.  The Promise delivered in baby form. Let’s not just let Christmas just happen to us this year. Let us not get so caught up in all the good things that our Perfect Thing gets lost in eggnog frenzy.  Face it head on, full of intention and celebration.  Let us choose what to celebrate wisely.  Let us not get tangled up in the garland of “should do’s.”  Let’s be okay breaking tradition for the promise of what is sacred and good. 

Christmas 2012.  I can smell it coming.  But I am so ready for this.  I have my red Sharpie, ready to do some damage.