Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. The Thanksgiving guests have returned to their homes, my house is decorated with sparkly lights and Christmas music is playing. My car is the one with the red nose and antlers. It is officially Christmas time…my favorite!
I love church at Christmas. Actually, I love church all the time, but I particularly enjoy attending worship services during the Christmas season. The first Sunday of Advent almost always means we will sing one of my favorite Advent songs “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and yesterday was no exception. The haunting melody combined with the words of expectation and hope perfectly capture the almost, but not quite yet longing of the season. The Kingdom is coming, but not fully realized. Our redemption is on the horizon. We are almost home.
In worship yesterday, our pastor challenged us to join him in a commitment to set aside complaining and grumbling this Christmas season He wondered if we could slow down, reject cynicism and focus on the simple joy of Christmas this year. He reminded us of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dicken’s famous story “The Christmas Carol.” As we all remember, when Scrooge came face to face with his own mortality and the needs of those around him, he finally chose joy and generosity instead of cynicism and greed. And really, aren’t we all faced with those same realities and choices this Christmas?
Yes, the stark contrast of the simplicity and beauty of the Nativity with the mass commercialism of our consumer Christmas season could be cause for a muttered “Bah Humbug” under our breath. Every year when I see the Christmas decorations in mid October and the mad rush of Black Friday, I shake my head in disbelief and wonder if all the hassle is worth it. Like all moms of busy families, there seems to be so much to do and so little time to get it done. December is the busiest time of year and it sometimes feels overwhelming.
But then I remember the story. The really wonderful story of our all powerful God being willing to get His hands dirty by wading deep into this messy world with us. God with us, Emmanuel. God CHOOSING to be with us, right next to us, just like us, because He loves us. And because of Christmas, He knows first hand the hurt and fear and disappointment and longing that fills our prayers. He experienced all those things as well.
So this year, I’m going to try something new. I’m not going to grumble about the hassle and the mess. I’m not going to mutter about the crowds and the traffic. I’m not going to complain about how busy and stressed out I am. When I fall back into that habit, I will stop and try again. While there are real life heartaches and difficult losses for which we will no doubt grieve, I’m not going to sweat the merely inconvenient or annoying. Instead of the easy path of cynicism, I’m going to risk the hard work of seeing God in every ordinary moment and finding joy instead. I believe this willingness to notice the sacred and holy around us is at the heart of the Christmas story. Knowing that God is indeed With Us in each moment. Emmanuel, God With Us. In order to notice, we will have to slow down and watch. Advent, after all, is about watching and waiting.
December will be over in just a few short weeks. It is time limited. Christmas 2014 just happens once. Would you like to join me? No complaining, no grumbling, no cynicism for the whole month of December? Shall we choose joy and hope and generosity of spirit instead?
What one thing can you do differently to reject cynicism and choose joy this year?