We’re a funny breed of people, we humans. We play a dirge, and we want others to mourn; we dance a jig, and we want them to clap time, but we don’t want to pay the piper, and we certainly do not want to dance to someone else’s tune.
At Christmas, we would like for others to be just about as much in the mood for the event as we. More tinsel, more lights! Less extravagance! Fewer commercials …more selection on the shelves! More Hallmark movies … less Hallmark movies! Whatever became of the Christmas parade? Why are all these people blocking the street? Perhaps you know some who go “all out” at Christmas and others who barely acknowledge the event. I have two friends, very close friends … one of whom has a tree in every room, and the other has been known to put hers up on Christmas Eve and take it down the afternoon of Christmas Day! People are different!
We regret and sometimes resent the commercialization of this holy season, but this is just about the last time of year that we want to spend fasting or carving out extra time to spend with the Lord. We want Christmas to be quieter and simpler, but we don’t want to do without those time-consuming Christmas cookies that Aunt Nellie makes and decorates so painstakingly, and we certainly don’t want to pare very much away from Christmas “as we like it.”
Here’s food for thought: What would it take to make this season merry and bright for the Lord our God? Well, it would take a miracle, because He is full of life and light and joy whether we maintain ours or not! But … how can we make Him smile as He watches us tear around trying to have a merry Christmas?
Today’s Advent Scripture is so very not Jingle Bells or Chestnuts Roasting … but it is as close to the Lord’s heart as it can be, considering how many times and in how many ways He gave us this commandment while He walked among us. Take a look; perhaps you would hardly expect these words:
Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:33-37, NIV)
Can it be done? Can we turn our Christmas festivities into a watch party, a true season of hope? If we are to rejoice in all things and to be watchful always (and we are,) then we can be vigilant and with oil in our lamps during the twelfth month of the year. Watchful, prayerful, sober … and still overflowing with joy.
How? How? How?
Here in Cor Unum, we have a default method, and it works every time. We start with gratitude, and we go on from there. It seems to be no accident that Thanksgiving is the launch for the Christmas season! If our prayers do fall a little short during this month … and we will look together in hope that they won’t … but if they should, a month of Advent gratitude will keep us on track and fill us with a better joy than Aunt Nellie’s cookies can produce.
Let us make an Advent vow … you know, the kind the Lord likes, when we make no long promises but just say “Yes” to His Word … that we will give thanks, heartfelt thanks in all things during this season, but …
Hold a moment, my dear friends. We’ve done that before. Many of us have more good intentions than Aunt Nellie’s cookies have sprinkles. Advent is about making sure, and that’s why we so love it here in Cor Unum. We are all about making sure, and we feel sure that that is what we are supposed to do.
Come back tomorrow, and we will explore a few Advent ideas for making the season delightful, and not to ourselves alone. More than pennies in an old man’s hat, more than taking turkeys and canned goods to a Food Bank – and not to exclude those at all – we want to bring Christmas joy to the Christ we love.
That’s the Advent we’re after!
Jell-O Ad, circa 1954