Saturday, November 29, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas

"Season of Peace" by Bill Breedon

On Thanksgiving night my husband and I caught a little bit of the local news before we went to bed. Now, I am very thankful that the top stories were not all sorts of gruesome news (which is why I do not ordinarily watch the local news), but let me tell you what the first nearly 15 minutes of the broadcast were about: shopping. Yes, that's right. They had live "action" cameras posted outside the outlet mall where folks had spent more of their Thanksgiving day than with friends or family. Some were camped out from the night before.

It saddens me that so much attention is paid to this ridiculous tradition every year. It's the same scene every year and the same sorry behavior that is part of the reason our country is in the pickle it's in. Real news is that no matter what kind of "deal" you believe you're getting, it's no bargain when you can't actually afford to pay for it. A sincere prayer of mine this year is that the difficulties of our nation will encourage real change - that behaviors and habits that include living beyond one's means will be looked at and altered.

For years I have wanted simpler Christmases. I even facilitated a workshop one year based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. I have learned a lot from that book and incorporated much from it into our own celebrations, but this year is going to be even simpler and I am thankful for this.

Due to the unemployment we went through this summer and the new job my husband got, but with less pay, my girls know not to expect as much as in years past. They know they will be getting one thing they really want (within reason, of course) and the rest of their gifts from us will be hand-made or second-hand or other small surprises. Gifts to other family members will be the same. I am excited about it and am looking forward to interesting and creative gift-giving and receiving this year.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling a little bit glum about the upcoming season. Not because of the aforementioned things, but because I was feeling a little bit like we were just going through the motions and that is definitely not the way I want to feel at Christmas! I was beginning to feel that the busyness was going to be rushing in and I didn't want that either. So, I started with asking my children what they really wanted this Christmas - what was important to them?

Their answers were few and simple:

They wanted to be at one of their grandma's houses this year for Christmas. That was easy. Maia wants me to make Kringla, which is a Norwegian cookie my grandmother used to make every Christmas. That's easy too, but that may be all the baking I will do this year. Baking is not one of the things I look forward to at Christmas and so I don't plan to do much of it. Maybe if the mood strikes me, but I'm not thinking of it as something I "ought" to be doing with my children. We've baked the traditional, cut-out cookies every year, but no one flinched when I said I didn't really want to do those this year.

One thing I will do is make the homemade, iced cinnamon rolls I make every Christmas morning. And Eve wanted to be sure that we have the Christmas music playing to signal them when they can come running out of their bedrooms on Christmas morning.

I think there is a Christmas parade in a small, charming town south of us. Perhaps we'll go to that, do some window shopping and maybe have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. I will also be seeking out some way for our family to serve others.

I usually enjoy a Christmas Eve service despite the fact that our small, house church does not do this. Last year I went to my old church to see old friends and hear the choir. This year I may visit another pastor friend's church. We also have been invited to our friends' annual Christmas pageant, which we attended last year and which we'll likely do again.

All of these things seem easy to me; doable and cost little to no money. They center around things we'll do together, but won't require a lot of preparation or stress.

More than anything, I want this Advent season to be deeply and quietly spiritual for me. I kept meaning to look for an Advent devotional online to use for myself and perhaps with my girls too, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. God is so good at knowing our hearts, though, and to my delight and surprise yesterday morning when my mom stopped by to drop off a few things, she also had picked up an extra Advent devotional at her church last Sunday. So, while I won't be getting out the whole of our decorations today, I will be rummaging through for our Advent wreath which will grace our table for the entire season.

This year, I want to be having something of a Merry little Christmas. We'll see how it goes, won't we? :)
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