For Those Not Ready For Advent, Christmas, 2013, Tomorrow …

Maybe you find yourself a bit behind schedule these days. Maybe the To-Do list is out of control. Maybe the last week of November and the first couple weeks of December are your least favorite of the year. They certainly were for me and though these days are better, I still remember how I used to wish I could fast forward to the new year during Christmastime.

Understandably, the thought of Christmas coming up in a few weeks is daunting because it means “We gotta do extra stuff and we can barely do the regular stuff.” Perhaps throughout the year, you told your loved ones that Christmas is going to be different this year – simpler, slower, focused more on family and others so forth. Then as you’ve been hearing the amazing things that others are doing for their families (“We’re bringing the whole family out to Hawaii after fixing up the entire Jersey Shore and feeding all the poor – Praise Jesus!”), you are reconsidering and the anxiety level slowly rises again.

Much of our fear is rooted in disappointing our family/loved ones. And that may be our first mistake this Christmas season. If we cannot enjoy the meaning of Christmas personally, we will not be able to share in the joy collectively. If for no other reason, you’re the weak link and chances are you are a key part of that link.

Indeed there is goodness in seeking a more meaningful and “simpler” Christmas. But “simpler” isn’t necessarily better though. My family remembers one year when we decided to do “no presents” and “nothing extra.” Worst Christmas ever. I’m sure it was easier but all of us, my mom included, felt that it wasn’t the presents that we missed, it was the lack of thought we put into our celebration. We thought we were eliminating stress but on Christmas Day, all of us felt a bit underwhelmed and disappointed that we didn’t intentionally put enough thought in honoring each other or the meaning of the Christmas. It feels like we can miss the point in either extreme.

Don’t get me wrong, the solution is not the presents – it’s the intentionality behind why we gather. I would have used the word “reason” but that term seems a bit overused this month. For most of us, we gather to celebrate our Savior’s birth with our loved ones. We share gifts out of tradition but it’s also an opportunity to bless another, similarly to how we feel blessed by God.

The problem for me throughout my twenties was that I was never ready to celebrate Christmas til a few days before it. All the changed with Advent. I’ve always known about Advent but it felt like extra-credit for those who were more religious than me (For years I wondered, who in the world is more religious than a pastor working in a church?). But the more we leaned into Advent, and the more we went through the Christmas narrative of “waiting” for the coming Christ-child, the more its meaning snuck in my Scrooge-like heart.

One of the things we’ve been doing these years have been giving books/dvds/music of what we’ve been inspired or really enjoyed throughout the year. One year, just about everyone of our family members and dear friends got a copy of the book of Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess by Will Samson. It’s a book about consumption and the abundant life in God -it’s not too long, very readable.

We saved a lot of money that year on gift-buying and donated the difference to Charity Water as part of our church youth group’s Advent Conspiracy campaign.
I’m excited that we are doing the Advent Conspiracy church-wide at Grace Chapel and this year’s project is International Justice Mission (watch the video below).

If this is your first time observing Advent, check out the very excellent post by my friend Thomas Turner at Everyday Liturgy – “2012 Everyday Liturgy Advent”.
For more on Advent Conspiracy, check out their site and also this article from Relevant Magazine “Plot your Advent Conspiracy” But one caution, don’t overwhelm yourself in reading all this stuff – we read for perspective and understanding, not to consume more data.

If you’ve done the “Advent-thing” before and find yourself unimpressed or unmotivated or just too overwhelmed at the moment, hang in there. Like with anything, the first step is identifying the issue and root-causes and taking small steps that convert to strides to life rhythms in making the needed changes. All I can say to you is that it’s worth it because the feeling of “staying as is” actually the feeling of sinking lower. If one of the themes of Advent is about darkness seeing light – may your tired heart find rest and renewal.

Like last year, I’ll be blogging some Advent Reflections, thanks for reading, and may the peace and joy of Christmas find you and your loved ones this time of year – especially if you don’t feel ready.

[AC] Promo 2012 – International Justice Mission from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

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