I have never enjoyed the commercialism around the holidays. The fact that Christmas decorations in the stores go up and the accompanying music begins playing before Thanksgiving has wrapped just baffles me. After all, where are the mindfulness and reflection that Advent is supposed to bring? We are getting ready on the outside, but are we preparing our hearts for the real reason of Christmas?
It is true, I like wrapping presents and seeing the smiles on the recipients’ faces just as much as the next person. I like singing carols, lighting candles and eating my weight in delicious holiday food. And sometimes I am guilty of getting too wrapped up in the fun of it all.
This year, the friends with whom I spent Christmas added a yard sign to their driveway:
“Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Yet it surprised me. It was a poignant reminder that Advent, and Christmas, are about more than decorations, music, presents and food. They are about the birth of the Son of God. The man that would live among us and then die for the redemption of our sins.
What a gift.
So what to do? Do we give up our Christmas trees and our holiday traditions? Do we stop singing carols and cooking turkeys?
Before you panic, please know that I am not suggesting that. Traditions have their place in reminding us of the beauty of this time of the liturgical calendar. But perhaps in the 365 days before the next Christmas, we can ponder tangible ways in which we can honor God with our actions, especially this time of the year.
Like singing Christmas music? Consider singing at a retirement home, or take your favorite carols to a shut-in. Like to cook? Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter around the holidays; they’d appreciate the extra set of hands. Like to give presents? Consider buying grocery store gift cards to have on hand for the hungry, or taking poinsettias to a hospice facility for their lesser-visited patients. Gosh, if you’re crafty, you might even knit blankets for folks in the local homeless shelter; perhaps in your favorite Christmas color: red. I am sure you could come up with even more ideas that would appeal to you. And perhaps that would start a new tradition.
One that would draw you closer to God.
Because you are living it.