Merry Christmas! I write this despite the fact that I have already seen Valentines and St. Patrick’s Day items in the stores. I write this despite the fact that many are so “done” with Christmas that they can’t wait to get their decorations down and house cleaned for the new year. I write this as a reminder that Christmas is not over. It has just begun!
Years ago, I became incredibly frustrated with just how busy December is. Finding time to decorate, plan shop, cook, spend time with friends, attend the holiday parties was just so much. Not to mention that I am a minister and figuring out how to balance spending time with family when I work most of Christmas Eve was a challenge. The internal guilt of what I thought the season should be focused on and the non-stop pace of it all was too much. Whenever anyone said, “Slow down and remember the reason for the Season!” my immediate internal response was “Bah Humbug! I don’t have time!”
And then one year I really spent some time considering the liturgical calendar and was reminded that Advent is the season for preparation. Yes, I am preparing to welcome Jesus, but I also think back to what it was like to prepare to welcome my own son. Lots of busyness – making sure the nursery was ready, showers, washing and folding newborn clothes, cleaning the house and “nesting,” cooking and freezing meals. I did all of these things ahead of time so that when the time came, I could be present with him and not have to worry about all of these things. I decided to embrace Advent as a season for preparation and not feel guilty because of the busyness. It is what it is, and I’m not going to change that about the season or myself.
BUT, what I could change was a focus on the Christmas Season as well. Christmas Day is just the beginning of a twelve day season in which I now do all I can to remain present to Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us. I seek to be present with the God who is present with me. I embrace it as a time for rest and renewal. I feel my soul slowing down as I hold that candle on Christmas Eve and sing Silent Night. While I am still tired, I try not to rush around on Christmas Day, but to simply be in the moment – and if we are a little late to my aunt’s, I know they will not have dinner without us. I now have a tradition that I will not get out of my pajamas on December 26 for anything and you will most likely find me curled up in the chair by the Christmas tree reading a book. It is a time for me to be fully present with my family and friends. It is a time for me to be fully present to God and my neighbors. It is a time when I am able to be present in the things I love to do, like baking cookies, rather than just rushing through because I need to get it done.
This year I have added a devotional by Bruce Epperly called The Work of Christmas: The Twelve Days of Christmas with Howard Thurman. Howard Therman is an African-American theologian, educator and civil rights leader that I have greatly admired and you often see a quote of his circulating on social media at this time of year:
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart
I invite you to join me these last days of Christmas to remain in intentional presence with the Christ child, renewing our spirits, our passions and ourselves for the work of Christmas in this coming year.