Is your head spinning? Or maybe just hurting at the speed with which we went from celebrating the life-giving reign of Christ last Sunday, to giving thanks on Thursday, to the blatant, in your face celebration of consumerism of “Black Friday” – which in the spirit of holiday creep began several days before Friday.
TV, radio, newspapers, e-mail inbox- all have been full of promotions and ads. The inducements to spend, to get a deal and to acquire the things needed for a perfect holiday.
It takes constant vigilance to avoid the “happiness is just one purchase away” syndrome. Especially when this year a major retailer has a frequently run commercial showing boxes of “Joy” and “Love” being delivered out of a semi trailer. Yep, let’s all go and buy a nice big box of joy.
On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to find people bemoaning the consumerism of the “holidays” and advocating a return to the real meaning of Christmas.
Our longing for the iconic Christmas of long ago can turn into the burden of a perfectly decorated house with lovely handcrafted ornaments on the tree. The aroma of homemade cookies, fudge and Christmas dinner delights your houseful of family and friends.
Then there are those of us who set our sights on a deeply spiritual Christmas. Special devotional time. Meaningful prayer. Extra worship services. Spiritual discipline turns into spiritual marathon. We are exhausted by Christmas.
It can take a lot of effort to get through this season. Expectations run high. It seems that everywhere you turn there is someone telling us about the best deals, the best presents, the best recipes, the best decorations, the best carols, the best Christmas pageant, the best worship service. The message: we owe our families and our selves the best. Particularly at Christmas. Why? Because we deserve it, we earned it. Exactly why we deserve it is a little unclear. Never the less, we chase after the idol of the perfect Christmas.
If you are like me, you can’t step out of the gift buying, decorating, and cooking Christmas culture. At least not without stepping on many toes, not least the toes of your own family. And you don’t want to ignore the spiritual dimensions of Christmas.
What to do? Besides hide until January?
If you can stand some more holiday advice, may I suggest…
Setting some limits. For me that means setting limits for myself. I spend some time thinking seriously about how much shopping, baking, decorating and yes, even spiritually how much I can realistically do.
This season highlights the pull and tug of the secular and the sacred. The pull and tug are always there, but it is much more acute this time of year. The days of Advent remind me of how much trouble I have living holistically. In some ways it is easier segregating the world into sacred and secular spaces. Holding the two together? Nearly impossible some days.
But yet…. We receive little glimpses, if we have the eyes to see. The small act of kindness in the midst of a crowded mall. The unexpected gift of cookies from a neighbor. A card from a long-lost friend. A moment when you think about your family and are deeply thankful for them. Opportunities to be kind. Opportunities to give to another. To drop a few coins in the kettle. To let someone go ahead of you in line. Small things. But then again, the kingdom of heaven is found small things and unlikely acts, a mustard seed, a little yeast, and even a baby.
I’d like to know, what do you think?
Where do you find your glimpses of heaven?