Have you ever seen those families that go someplace really amazing for vacation, but in their exuberance for trying to “take it all in” and experience everything, they end up running at such a frantic pace—seeing all the sights, visiting all the attractions, doing all the activities—that they come home from vacation even more exhausted than when they left???.. Therby missing the whole point of even having a vacation in the first place! That’s kinda what it was like for us during Christmas, back we were really involved in the institutional church.
Look, I have nothing against going to an institutional church service to enjoy Christmas plays and concerts and singing Christmas trees and carols by candlelight and all that stuff. But back when I was on staff at a church, I noticed how the busyness of all these big events—especially for those of us who were coordinating them—could often rob our family of the opportunity to really take a moment and reflect on what (and who) the season is really about, y’know?
During one busy year in particular, my wife and I decided to go against the grain. Instead of doing and church activities, we decided to host dinners at our house each Sunday night for all of our friends who had volunteered to run various Christmas church programs. After all, when you have a family of five, it’s not that much more work to add a few more folks.
And with just a little more effort—adding another leaf to the table, breaking out the good dishes, lighting the room with candles, putting on some instrumental Christmas music, etc.—we were able to create a really peaceful atmosphere where our friends could come hang out and relax after a long day at church. Add to that a weekly Advent Reading, and pretty soon we had created an oasis in all the busyness where our friends could actually slow down and observe the season, instead of just running a bunch of Christmas programs each week.
I’ll never forget how grateful they were and how many times they told us they would have entirely missed the opportunity to experience Christmas for themselves if we hadn’t made them slow down and take a moment to reflect and celebrate it. I guess all I’m really saying is what Ferris Bueller said, but just tweaking it a bit to apply it to the holidays: “The Christmas season moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”