Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Unconventional Advent

I’m thinking about our lists this time of year, each a mile long. So many asks, so much to purchase, print, send, wrap, and bake. And amidst all this rush, in this season of Advent, we are encouraged to wait expectantly with great anticipation, to ponder the coming and birth of our Savior. Am I, surrounded by all this busyness and noise, the only one finding it harder and harder to do this?

This has led me to ponder. Life is short and we are never promised tomorrow. So what would it look like for me to live boldly and do something radical? What would it look like if I approached the Christmas season with a blank slate and built our traditions from the ground up? What would the season hold for us? Which practices would stay? Which ones would go? It’s been a challenging exercise for me to think through.

I think Christmas time would be a lot more about connection with those I love than about gestures and tangibles. There would be long meals with friends and family gathered around, sharing their souls as the fire burns low. There would be an obscene number of candles and probing conversation questions that facilitate discussions beyond the superficial. The only gifts to speak of would be the literal presence of the guests in our home, the words of affirmation shared around the table, and maybe “consumables” contributed toward the making of a great meal. There would be much music and laughter and encouragement but there would be space at the table for heartache and tears too. The vulnerability in the air would be as palpable as the scent of the evergreens on the table.

December would also hold for me quiet mornings alone with coffee and my Bible in front of the tree. There would be puzzles poured over and full glasses of wine. There would be lots of time to write and think and pray my way through the Advent season. There would be peppermint ice cream dripping with hot fudge. There would be crackling sounds of the fire as the kids acted out the Christmas story with their tiny nativities. There would be nighttime runs after dark through the neighborhood to admire the abounding Christmas light displays, carols blaring in my headphones and crisp fall air filling my lungs.

As long as time allowed and the family continued to desire them, I would carry on some of our cherished traditions - like visiting “Candy Cane Lane” in Seattle, filling shoes on Saint Nicholas Day, and making Saint Lucia Buns for our eldest, adorned in white, to deliver to our room before sunrise on Saint Lucia day.

On Christmas morning, there would be a small handful of gifts under the tree – Legos to build in the afternoon, maybe a family game to play together or a new book for me to snuggle up and read followed by a nap. There would be cinnamon rolls for breakfast and a delicious dinner later on that could easily be made ahead. The day would be simple yet thrilling.

There would be negligible shopping, little stress, minimal expectation and no judgement. I would have permission to bow out of gift exchanges without feeling like a heel. I wouldn’t be comparing myself to those around me, making sure I was keeping up with the Jones’. I wouldn’t be striving unceasingly for unachievable perfection.

Is what I’m envisioning even achievable? Maybe not entirely. But I do think I could make a valiant effort toward it. What if, instead of doing things “because it’s what we always do” or because we “have to,” I began by asking myself two key questions before fulfilling an obligation or taking on an endeavor or attending an event: “Is this essential for the well-being of me or my immediate family?” and “Does it bring me joy?” If the answer to either of these questions is no, then that event or obligation is removed from the list. I have wonder if I might find that the items on my long list of “obligations” aren’t really obligations after all.

If writing and sending out a Christmas letter is giving me angst, can I give myself permission to skip it this year? Do I need to make five different kinds of holiday goodies? Or even two or three? These things are all well and good when I’m in a place where I can pull them off, but if they are draining my energy and tugging me away from stillness and time with my Savior, are they really worth it? I would argue certainly no.

What would it look like if you and I gave ourselves permission to do things differently? Not with the green scowling face of the Grinch or the darkly-shadowed “Bah Humbug” of Scrooge, but out of sheer protection for our souls. Some of us are crumbling in this culture that is ever-pushing for bigger and better and busier. Some of us simply can’t live another day carrying the weight of all the pressures we have allowed to burden us.

So I ask this of myself: Do I have the courage to live boldly in this season and beyond? To be unconventional in a season where my heart is crying out for care and for quiet and for rest? Am I willing to set boundaries and say “no?” Can I let go of some of the things I was hoping to accomplish in order to prioritize the things my soul needs to thrive?

I know many of us are weary and tired with longing in this season toted for it's hope and comfort and joy. You may feel like you are "missing" it, like the days are passing, full of hustle and bustle and rushing. If you keep waiting for that moment of quiet reflection and space to ponder to fall into your lap, I hate to tell you, but it won’t. Our society makes that nearly impossible. If what you need is permission to say the hard no to something that is wearing down your soul and keeping you from resting at the feet of Jesus in this season of Advent, permission granted my friend! When considering what you will and won't partake in this month, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions: “Is this essential for the well-being of me or my immediate family?” and “Does it bring me joy?” If your answer to either is no, perhaps you should reconsider. 

I will end with the words of this beautiful carol, my prayer this Christmas. I pray that you will find, create, or make the space to pause and await the coming of our Savior in the days to come! 

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

posted by kelsie