Tomorrow being December 1st and all, it's probably about time that some of us hit the pause button, take a deep breath, and ease on in to the season before us. I understand that some of you are already in free fall mode, plunging headlong towards the end of the year like someone whose chute didn't deploy. For you, I wish you "good luck with that" and I hope that you find the back up cord to slow you down before its too late. For the rest, here is my Christmas wish list for you to consider; slow down and savor it. That's it. For everyone of you reading this, it means something completely different. Each tradition has its own way of celebrating, and all of these were meant to be markers to stand still for a moment and observe. They are not part of your "to do" list. They are the entirety of your "to be " list. For many it is for your own good and personal well being that you take this to heart. So like anything else, you have a choice. For fellow Christ followers, it is not an option. This is because, contrary to our nature to think otherwise, it's not all about you, or us. Your ability to observe the season in ways that both savor and celebrate is not only for your well being, but also for the well being of others. So...without further commentary concerning the obvious, I am going to be pastoral for a few minutes and leave you with some things that I've learned through the years concerning celebrating and savoring:
Before you do a thing...grab hold of your calendar. Whatever day has not already been grabbed, you'll need to X it out and claim it. Now, as the month progresses, these days are already committed to some observance of the holiday. Plan them ahead or take them as they come, it doesn't matter. What does matter is claiming them first before they are consumed by the tyranny of the urgent. I am not kidding on this...if you do not do this, the season will become an avalanche from which you cannot escape.
1. Have change on you at all times...especially if you have children in tow. This is not for you or
them. It is for you to be able to demonstrate as well as take part in the joy of giving this season. You know all those people standing next to red kettles this time of year ringing bells? They aren't there because of their musical prowess. Let your child remind you once again what a joy it is to give what was never really yours to begin with.
2. Buy a drink for the person in line behind you...I'm talking coffee (or ?) use your discretion. One caution ...Make sure that it doesn't look like a holiday opportunistic "pick up" attempt.
3. Find a "Giving Tree" and enjoy the simplicity of buying a gift that is probably considerably more humble than something demanding a Black Friday camp out.
4. Drink lots of hot cocoa ... Even if you live in Arizona...just turn up the a/c for mood enhancement.
5. Sit in front of a lit tree in the dark ... early morning, before dawn, is best. It will remind you of the beautiful reality of light piercing the darkness.
6. Tip generously ... It will remind you that whoever is serving you, while you enjoy a moment this season, is actually working and allowing you a moment this season.
7. Take a walk thorough a neighborhood with a great holiday light display...take someone with you, and preferably a child when you can. If nothing else, it will remind you that light was sent to a people "living in darkness".
8. Read the Christmas story in the beginning of Matthew and the beginning of Luke. It certainly makes more sense than the breaking and entering stories of a fat man in a red suit.
9. Acknowledge the fat man in the red suit ... Anything else, noble as our intentions may be, is denial. While you are at it, meditate on, talk about, and be comfortable with the difference between Jesus and the fat man.
10. Find a candle lit Christmas Eve service somewhere and invite everyone that you can to go with you...even if its not your church. If its not your church, consider changing churches...any church that doesn't have an observance on Christmas Eve is a bit off center anyway ... Just sayin. I know...many of you have "parties" or family obligations...unless your party or family obligation includes candles and a reading of the Biblical account of the event that we are supposedly celebrating, it's only white noise. It is a pseudo-celebration. Whose birthday party is it anyway? There are so many churches, so many traditions and times available, before and after any other substitute Christmas celebration that there is no way that this isn't possible. Even as a pastoral artist, my wife and I have been known to find a midnight mass when other opportunities were not available.
take this all for what its worth...but I challenge you to consider the alternative. I'm sure that many of you have even more suggestions, traditions and tricks to enjoy the holiday ... please share them here...and most importantly ... savor the season