The one gift I can give this year

We’re in a terrible rush these days.

Have you noticed?

It seems no matter where I am, someone is honking or speeding by or cutting someone off or ignoring the people around them. We’re so busy, looking for the shortest lane at the store, the fastest way from here to there.

So hurried.

Waiting is an obstacle to accomplishing tasks, patience no longer a virtue.

Life is just flying by, and what do we have to show for it?

Photo by S. Charles | Creative Commons

Photo by S. Charles | Creative Commons

I am not ready for Christmas. I am never ready for Christmas. I still have family photo cards from last year that never made it to the mail. (Confession: I’m tempted to send them out again this year. Do you think anyone would notice?)

I have a hard time planning ahead to send Christmas cards and shop for gifts. It’s not like Christmas comes as a surprise every year. I just fail to plan for it. Sometime after Thanksgiving (and after our son’s birthday), I start thinking about Christmas, but frankly, it stresses me out a little to add all these other things to my already cluttered life: decorating a tree, sending cards, buying presents, making cookies. I enjoy all of those things; I just don’t appreciate the pressure I feel to get it all done in this short amount of time.

What’s the point of Advent?

A friend asked this on Facebook recently. My answer was less than theological or educated, and her question is not at all surprising. Until a few years ago, I didn’t think much of Advent, that season of the year preceding Christmas. Maybe we opened a calendar with candy in it as kids. Maybe we tried to mark down the days somehow. Even now, with kids, making time for Advent activities seems like one more thing to add to the already busy time of year.

This year we’re using some Advent readings from Thriving Family magazine and twice already, we’ve gotten behind and had to catch up on the days we missed. Sometimes I want to just forget the whole thing. Is it really worth it?

And then it happens.

We find a cute tree. We make room for it in the house and decorate it. We drag out the kids’ nativity set and they begin to tell stories about “the time when Jesus came to be born.” nativity

And even though these acts are small and ordinary, they remind me that this is no ordinary time. It is a time to remember, yes. But also to pause.

A time to wait and expect.

The kids practically bounce off the walls with excitement now that the tree is up and there are presents under it. Christmas is special and they know it.

Do I know it?

I am obsessed with the idea of light breaking into darkness.

Light equals hope. Aren’t we all a bit happier when the sun shines after days of rain? Doesn’t something in us brighten also?

And this is what happens during Advent. We who bear the Light of God proclaim to those walking in darkness (we were once those people, too) that Light has come and Light is coming. Light is breaking through. The world will no longer be dark. There is hope. Hold on just a bit longer. Come with us and we’ll show you the Way to the Light.

Photo by Hartmut Tobies | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Photo by Hartmut Tobies | Creative Commons | via unsplash

 —

It is easier, sometimes, to pierce the darkness with light at Christmas. Sometimes we are kinder, more patience, more peaceful, more generous. Sometimes not.

I never quite understood the phrase “the Christmas spirit,” as if our mood during this time was limited to only a few weeks or a month out of the year.

Come January do we all turn back into misers? Is there something magical about this time that brings out the best in us? Or is it just easier to hide the worst in us when all around us is seemingly jolly?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Sometimes when I look at the world I see only hate, sadness, war, hurry, meanness, evil, harshness and greed. (I don’t have to look far. All those things are inside of me.)

So I find it interesting that the fruit of the Spirit is all the things lacking in our world, in my world, today: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

These are small battles, for sure, in a war that rages across humanity.

But they are satisfying victories that allow a pinprick of light to shine in the darkness.

This is Advent.

Not a loud proclamation that life as we know it is over.

Not a terrifying battle cry that we’re about to be taken prisoner.

Not a forced servitude.

No.

It is little bits of light in the dark.

It is the hope that comes with a newborn baby.

It is a promise that life goes on.

It is expectation that the world will not always be dark.

It is an invitation to join a revolution whose core value is love.

It is a hand extended in friendship and brotherhood, a voice that says, “Follow me. There’s another way to live.”

It starts with Advent and continues through Christmas, but heaven help us if it ends there.

If I could give the world a gift this year, it would be my own commitment to be Light and Love and Hope all year long.

Of course I’ll fail at that, but it’s certainly worth a try.

Do you celebrate Advent? What does it mean to you?

How does the Christmas season affect you?

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One thought on “The one gift I can give this year

  1. We do celebrate Advent for the past six years. Before that, I didn’t really know what it was about. Now that I know, I do my very best each year to keep our focus on Christ, and I try to keep the busy-ness to a minimum. I do my best to keep our Christmas time stress-free, because the stress comes from the added things that man has decided are important for a Christmas celebration — the cookie baking, the shopping and presents, (which by the way, we only purchase three items per person as that is how many gifts we read in the Bible that Jesus received, and so why does anyone need more?). That helps keep stress, both the shopping and financial kinds, to a minimum.

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