The unfolding of Christmas
We just got home tonight from celebrating an early Christmas with my family. It was wonderful – joyful – fun – busy – yummy – loving – no one fought (there are 14 of us!) I love how this season is unfolding so far this year. About five years ago (Liam’s second Christmas) we started our Christmas season transformation. Six years ago (and before) our Christmas just looked very average north american. We spent too much money, bought too many things, got too many things, were stressed out over shopping and finding the perfect gift for people who frankly (first and foremost including ourselves) don’t need anything. We went to church (and I have always loved Christmas Eve worship) but the focus was not on how Christ would want his birth celebrated – we were celebrating his birth (and we did still love him so then) but in the way we wanted it. There was little to no thought of celebrating by loving those Jesus asked us to.
The years since have been years of gradual transformation. We started hacking lots of stuff away (literally!). First went the adult gifts for all of our families. (If you are thinking of this but having a hard time just know to pray and to do it with love – it wasn’t received easily by everyone at first but now no one misses it at all – and it wasn’t in one fell swoop – it went in stages). Next went the 500 kids gifts (okay – I might be exaggerating but really not by much – all those loving grandparents and aunties and uncles and parents had to reign themselves in.) We focused on gifts of time and love and talents. We celebrated specifically as Jesus birthday. All of this was good and felt right and oh so freeing for our family – but frankly it felt a bit too much like we were taking away without adding anything good in its place. And the advent preparation and Christmas celebration felt a bit sparse – like we were still missing something.
But this year feels like the year we have really come home – home to beside the baby Jesus. We have come to a place that feels joyful and exciting and free and loving and magical (but real!). I have been inviting the spirit into our advent and Christmas plans and she has not disappointed. We have been re-imagining this holiday in the company of some family and friends. One of my worries was that my kids would feel ripped off about celebrating Christmas as Jesus’ birthday (and how he would want us to celebrate)- that it would seem sucky compared to Santa Clause and presents and how could I ever compete with that…
Well the truth is I can’t – but Santa Clause doesn’t hold a candle to God the almighty come to earth in the form of a baby to redeem our mess and love the broken! It sounds corny but really this year God is showing me it is just so true and filling our days of advent with that awesome presence- my kids can really see the gifts he has there waiting for everyone – gifts of love and joy and peace. And they aren’t disappointed – they are filled up to overflowing with honest to goodness excitement!
We have been talking about how Jesus would have his birthday celebrated. We have been giving gifts of our time, our love, our patience, our talents, our un-talents to those who need a bit of Jesus’ love to shine in their lives (and who doesn’t?) My favourite so far is we have been caroling with friends (have I mentioned I cannot sing…) I was holding back tears often and my children loved it too – all I can think is that the spirit really touched them through it also. It is a new tradition for sure! We pondered advent through some beautiful prayer stations a friend compiled for our small group – a peaceful time of prayerful conversation with Jesus. We have been reading advent devotions, Christmas books, listening to Christmas music and doing Christmas baking for the hospitalised, neighbours, friends and loved ones. We are looking forward to having an outdoor nativity walk imagined by a friend at our house this week. We are making some beautiful new traditions while leaving ourselves the time and energy to enjoy some old but cherished ones (like all sleeping in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas eve in sleeping bags – one of my favourite traditions from my own childhood.)
So Merry Christmas friends! I hope you are filled with awe and excitement that only God can give as you celebrate the birth of Jesus this season. (And if you have a minute I’d love to hear your favourite way you celebrate.)