I went to a super-store yesterday in the middle of the afternoon. Granted, Thursday is Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving is “late” this year so we are all aware how quickly Christmas is approaching. It took us five minutes to find a parking spot — at the back of the lot. Why does it seem like the population of our city doubles at this time of year? Everyone is out and about. My youngest son, holding my hand as we walked out of the crowded store, filled with many impatient shoppers (whew! we made it!) simply said, “Mom, everyone is going crazy for the holidays, but we’re not.” Amen. I looked through his eyes and saw from waist level what it must be like to see all these adults filling their carts, somewhat irritated and rushing around. Is THIS what it is all about? In his little mind, forming meaning about the world, is THIS Thanksgiving? Is THIS Christmas?
I am not a tinsel-hater. I love to deck the halls like any other person. I love parties; I love giving gifts; I love beauty. What I don’t love is the feelings of rush and hurry and the obvious irritations that seem so prevalent all around us during a season which gave birth to songs like, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” I want to swim upstream of this chaos. I want to reclaim Advent and the Giving of Thanks. I want to make a stand in my own little corner of the world and say, “No. We aren’t giving in to this hijack of the holy.” All around us signs will say, “Joy” and “Peace on Earth.” Can we claim those gifts in our hearts and homes? I think we can.
I already have posted two other times (here and here) about plans our family has to keep Advent simple and meaningful. The thoughts I have now are about how to keep Advent in your own heart. I want to talk to myself right along with you. I wish we had a cup of something warm and you could sit in the chair across from me in my living room and we could just savor the moment, have some good laughs and pray together and remember. Because Thanksgiving and Christmas are times of remembering. We remember our blessings, no matter how dark things may feel. We look beyond the frenzy and the failings and the disappointments and the difficulties and we say, “Thanks.” Ann Voskamp reminds us of Eucharisteo, the Latin word for Thanksgiving. We give thanks and we are lifted over our circumstances as we do. I encourage you — I encourage myself — to not just count those blessings while seated around the ham or turkey one Thursday evening, but to make this a season of giving thanks, quietly, in your own heart, over and over and over and over until gratitude becomes your breath.
Another thing I want to encourage you to do is to stop and breathe and take time to sit still with Jesus. It sounds so simple, but how often do we forget to step back when our hearts start to race along with the temptation to jump into the stream of holiday hub-bub and just go insane with the rest of them? We can step back. We can take space. We can breathe. I am spending this season with less on my “to do” list so that I can spend more time alone with God. Making space needs to be intentional. It won’t happen if we don’t make the decision and take the action. To swim upstream of culture means turning and pushing against the current instead of going with the flow. We can mark off time — and we can also spontaneously grab moments — to sit, be still and know that He is God. He meets us there in those moments of solitude and silence.
In Christmas, we remember the greatest sacrifice ever made — for love — that God left heaven and humbled Himself to infancy, obscurity and death for us. I have had Christmases past where I lost this treasure in the fog of festivities. I am purposing in my heart to withdraw daily, many times each day to reflect on, receive from and praise God — alone in the quiet of my heart. Christmas is for each of us. It comes to us as our own personal gift. We can receive this gift best on our own in intimate time with Him.
Take time alone. Pray and worship. Give Thanks. Let’s not lose the treasure of Jesus in this season. I love hearing from you. What are you doing to keep Christ in Christmas this year?