Our family ended Thanksgiving with a fend-for-yourself dinner–the boys, Steve, and I each heating up restaurant leftovers or creating concoctions from the taco fixings remaining from the night before. We had enjoyed a traditional holiday dinner that day for lunch at my mom’s, so there were no bits of turkey or dressing, no spoonfuls of mashed potatoes or slivers of pumpkin pie at our house. Just veggie wraps and cold meat sandwiches and nachos with melted cheese.
And just like that, Thanksgiving was over, and we had moved on to the next season.
On the way home that evening, we had driven through the city park near our home to look at the first night of the full Christmas light display, and we may have had a holiday movie on the television that night. I don’t remember. I fell asleep almost as soon as I hit the couch. Friday evening, Steve and I attended a Jim Brickman Holiday concert; Saturday, we visited a nearby farm to chop down the perfect Christmas tree; Sunday, after celebrating the first week of Advent in church, we knocked off most of our Christmas shopping.
Christmas is almost here, whether we like it or not.
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts and Facebook updates and tweets about slowing down at Christmas, about simplifying the holiday. And boy, am I all for that. But now that I am married and have three step-sons and lovely in-laws and more family parties to coordinate and school concerts to attend, the goal of keeping Christ in Christmas seems harder than ever. The complex web of relationships in my new step-family, on top of the layered step-families I come from, means often it’s not even up to me who we buy gifts for or what holiday events I attend.
Peace on earth, or at least peace in my family, means holding on tight and enjoying the ride.
But what I am learning is that slowing down at Christmas and simplifying the holidays doesn’t rest primarily in an empty schedule and a full bank account. It starts with me and my heart and how fully I am resting in Jesus.
As I look ahead to the journey toward Christmas, I can’t help but think of the Israelites making their three annual trips to Jerusalem, slowly climbing the mountain toward the temple where they would celebrate the Festivals of Passover, Weeks, or Booths. It’s easy to imagine how simple life was then, how easy to set aside daily life for the rituals of faith.
It’s easy to image if you don’t read the Psalms, that is. Psalms 120-134 are called the Psalms of Ascent and are believed to be a hymn book the Israelites would sing from as they made their way up the mountain on foot. And the material in these songs is straight from the pages of my journal, if you must know.
In my trouble I cried to the Lord.
We are greatly filled with contempt.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
Lord, hear my voice!
How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.
So, the calendar is full; the bank account, empty. And I am singing out loud as I make my way up the mountain.
Come with me?
I’m not promising I will write every day for Advent, but I am promising when I write, it will be something important that I am learning during this season. I hope you will find a way to rest in Jesus this season, even as you are guzzling down egg nog and wrapping your 99th gift.
Photo by Shamefullyso, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.