Slowing down to observe the season


#1

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.”


#2

Very true! We have cut way back on Christmas activities over the years because so much of it is just that - activity! Some of it is good, but we only have so much bandwidth to go around.

Why do we do it?

I believe a large part of it is simply a point of view that is part of the fallen world - that we must constantly strive to prove our worth. We strive to prove our own worth and we strive to prove how much we love others by shopping for them???

But the Christmas season whispers, “You’re already good enough! Remember, I sent my most valuable gift to you in My Son! So rest and relax. You are already infinitely valuable to me.”

I love to give gifts, but only when they are meaningful. I was just talking to my wife about handmaking something special for each of our kids this year.

When we know and trust that our identity and worth is already approved in the Beloved (Eph 1), we are free from the worldly motivations of guilt and shame and we can give freely and without fear, and REST.


#3

Dude, awesome post. The one thing we DID do this year though was awesome, and we hosted a neighborhood Christmas party. Quite a few neighbors had been here for over 40 years, and had never had one, and they were delighted! We were able to make several contacts and meets that we had not officially done (we have been here a year and had to have several things done to the house, like add rails to stairs, to even make it safe) and found some felt needs we can begin praying for. We learned we have neighbors all over the map, from yet to believe in Jesus :slight_smile: to people of various denominational backgrounds. Already other ideas to reach out and love have hit our brainwaves, and we have had a real burst of energy!
What was really unique is my family of four lives with another brother in Christ, all in the same house. Some of our neighbors openly asked us what that was all about, just because they thought there might be some weird hanky panky going on. Explaining through that was awesome, and a witness, as we got to speak on how we believe in the truly ‘shared life of Christ.’ Without instigating it! Lots of positive vibes back! Because I think they are positively responding to Jesus!