Navigating Christmas – Part 1
Maybe you can identify with the following scenario: you promise yourself that Christmas will be different every year. You desire to slow down and be attentive to the simpler, quieter moments. You want to be careful not to get swept away with the bigger, glitzier, over-stimulation of all that is offered as celebration options. Yet, when December 25tharrives, the gift list was just as long. The celebrations were just as many. The credit card statement is just as lengthy, and expectations are just as crushed. If this describes you, then be of good cheer, for this could be your year for change!
Certainly, 2020 will go down in history as being unique, and Christmas will prove to be no different. Life, as we know it, has been tweaked by the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, the present atmosphere lends itself to navigating Christmas in a more attentive, deliberate, simple pace. Now, don’t stop reading because you think this is going to be a bare-bones idea of celebrating, and worry, “if I don’t get Aunt Mildred a Christmas gift, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
It all boils down to simplicity. This doesn’t mean you have to pare down to an austere lifestyle but live out what the true Hebrew definition of simplicity is; sincerity of heart, integrity, a singleness of mind. So, we need to ask ourselves, “How can every aspect of my Christmas reflect the sincerity of heart, celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, and deepen my journey with him?”
Maybe we need to start with the Christmas story itself. Although the Christmas message is quite profound, it is wrapped in a blanket of simplicity. It is a story of a humble peasant girl who made a simple promise to an unpretentious man to live a modest life. It was a seemingly uneventful birth of a boy in an unadorned place where most people had no idea what was happening. God showed his love for the world in the most simplistic of ways…a baby.
Today’s celebration of Christmas has morphed into a complex maze of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” that can overwhelm us and squelches our attentiveness to the quiet, intimate, sacred moments.
If you are raising your hand to say, “I’m in,” then this series over the next few weeks, brought to you by the Spiritual Life Development Department, is all about navigating Christmas with simplicity. We will be looking at how to celebrate, give gifts, and decorate your home with meaning. First and foremost, let’s look at an intentional way to worship Baby Jesus from a simplistic perspective.
We’ve already felt the shift in the way we’ve always corporately worshipped, for we are doing so virtually or in a hybrid manner with distancing, mask-wearing, and downsizing. Worship attendees have had to make reservations to go to church, have our temperature taken, and limit contact with other worshippers. Community is important, but it is not what it once was. Although we all understand it is for our safety, it can be a bit distracting. For now, this is how life must be, and as the Body of Christ, we desire to abide by these regulations and do what is best for everyone. But nothing can stop us from how we worship the Lord individually!
Now is the time to plan your personal Advent journey. Let’s face it, we have heard the Christmas account so many times we may glaze over its depth of meaning. Ask the Lord to place within you such a desire that you experience the story again…for the first time! Here are a few resources to bring the mystery and majesty to the nativity for the depth of your soul.
God is in the Manger, Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This daily devotional is reflections from one of the twentieth century’s most beloved theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), especially for the Advent season. These daily thoughts combine God’s most profound messages. Christ came to earth: God’s strength is best seen through weakness, faith is more important than religion, and God is most clearly heard through hardship and suffering.
These forty-one devotional readings help you move through the weeks of Advent by looking at the Christmas story through the themes of waiting, mystery, redemption incarnation, and joy. All of this is expressed through excerpts from Bonhoeffer’s personal letters and Christmas sermons. Every day includes scripture to help you dig deeper into the most profound meaning of the season.
Advent and Christmas, Wisdom from Henri Nouwen, Judy Bauer, editor
As a priest, author, lecturer, and counselor, Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) writings have an inimitable way to touch the seeking soul’s depth. These Advent readings are a compilation of Nouwen’s numerous books to help the reader take a slow, gradual journey through the Christmas story and the life of Christ.
“The four weeks of Advent typically symbolize the four different ways that Christ comes into the world: at his birth as a helpless infant in Bethlehem, at his arrival in the hearts of believers, at his death, and at his arrival on Judgment Day.” (pg. vii)
Christmas Breakthrough, Finding the Real Gifts of the Season, Phil Needham
Author Phil Needham (ret. S.A. Commissioner) takes the reader through a thought-provoking Advent journey. These readings span four weeks, helping the reader receive the Christ Child in a renewed way. “Week One addresses some of the deep concerns we have about the future, concerns we can then bring to God. Week Two is a meditation on a detailed prophecy…with the coming of Christ and will be completely fulfilled at His return. Week Three takes us through the process of the change required if we are to be prepared for receiving Jesus. And Week Four takes us through the story of surprises and miracles leading up to the birth of Jesus.” (pg. 6)
The Best Gift Ever Given: a 25-Day Journey Through Advent from God’s Good Gifts to God’s Great Son, Ronnie Martin
As families, we can get swept away with all the Christmas activity and, if not attentive, lose sight of its true meaning. The Best Gift Ever Given is a book to lead families simply through the Advent season. This devotional book helps the readers understand the gracious giving of our Heavenly Father and how we can best reflect that to others. Read the devotional, engage family members in the reflective questions, and read the closing prayer. It can be incorporated into family mealtime or before bed at night.
It will not be an ordinary Christmas, so turn the negativity of COVID restrictions into a positive personal sacred journey. Do not mourn the loss of precious traditions but take meaningful steps to navigate your worship of the Christ Child in a new way.