Q's Christmas List
- Watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Check!
- Listen to "Silent Night" by the Temptations. Check!
- Listen to Nat King Cole's version of "The Christmas Song" (Merry Christmas to You). Check!
- Make plans for Christmas Eve Services. Check!
- Make gifts purchases for the family, especially Dionne's. Check!
My tasks are all checked off. I'm prepared for Christmas-or at least I think that I am.
Are you ready for Christmas? From the entire list checking rituals that we all do, Christmas can be a difficult time of year. For instance, when the movies industry, department stores, and restaurants make a full court press in marketing Christmas on November 1, and virtually skipping over Thanksgiving, (and Advent) it only adds more things to our list. With all of these things added to my list, there are times when I feel like Charlie Brown and I just don't understand Christmas at all.
As Charlie Brown says, "Instead of feeling happy, I feel sort of let down. While I like getting presents, sending cards, decorating trees and all that, somehow when all of the Christmas-crazed shopping is over, there's no magic, and I always end up feeling sad." Sound familiar?
Though it's a cartoon, Charlie Brown's story of searching for an answer to why he always feels down around Christmas is similar to our situations. With a little help from his friends, Charlie Brown receives an Advent lesson of preparation to learn that Christmas is really about the miracle of Jesus' birth: where the invisible God of the universe became visible in a way that we could see and experience directly.
As Charlie Brown discovered, Christmas is also about change: changing our values and priorities, changing our attitudes, and changing the way we treat one another. When we think about Christmas as change, Advent can be the practices that help us to embrace the upcoming change that Christmas requires. But saying that Christmas is about change and actually living out that change each Christmas are two very different things.
We all have a list of things that we struggle with and can improve upon during this Advent season to help us to prepare for Christmas. For some of us, it is working too hard since we have fear of failure. For others, it is too much ambition. Still for others, it is inner hostility, resentment and hatred that we refuse to let go. And finally, for a small percentage, it is actually too much religion in the form of being "holier than thou" and self-righteousness.
Preparing for Christmas doesn't have to be a time of list checking and constantly feeling overextended. It can be a time of joy, a time when we experience a profound sense of the Holy One in our lives, and a time when we connect with our loved ones on a deeper level. But these things cannot happen if we spend too much, do too much, and expect too much from everyone else around us.
Rethink the way you get ready for Christmas. Rethink your expectations and your obligations-and look for ways to serve others. Rethink your celebrations-remember to focus your attention on the nativity and check off a new list of love, joy, peace and hope. This will help you to get ready for Christmas. And as Linus Van Pelt tells Charlie Brown in that classic 1965 animated classic, "That's what Christmas is all about."