Today is the first in a December and January series on Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Following Sarah Arthur‘s new book, Light Upon Light (which I can’t recommend more highly), this first week begins with the theme “Begin with a Change.” Check back each Saturday to see what’s new, and in the meantime, enter in and enjoy!
Christmas snuck upon me, again. For the 35th year in a row, it’s like I went to bed sometime around the first of September, and awoke a day or two ago to find the world decked in green and red, illuminated by the hopeful glow of sparkling white lights. Egg nog beckons me on an hourly basis and the mail box actually gets emptied every day because I am actually eager to see a stack of Real, Live Hand-Addressed Mail. The Justin Bieber Holiday station blasts through the Pandora speakers most every minute of our day, and I find myself at the gym for the sole purpose of burning off every Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe I’ve more-than-merrily consumed.
And it’s exhausting, already.
Because we’ve yet to buy a tree and the bins of Christmas decorations remain stacked in the garage, somewhere between the lonely and forgotten camping gear and a now-defunct high chair. I had aspirations of being So On Top of It! this year and getting all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving, but by the time I finished stuffing my face with an Alabamian spread of turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie, I realized I’d already lost the battle.
Maybe next year, Self.
In the meantime, my to-do list grows: get decorations out, buy Christmas presents – figure out what to buy for Christmas presents – wrap Christmas presents, place Christmas presents in a place where your favorite two-year-old won’t go to town and unwrap his Christmas presents, figure out how to secure Christmas tree to wall so two-year-old won’t sharpen his climbing skills…
And so it goes.
Because if you’re anything like me, December arrives, and with it comes a flurry of stress and busyness, a rush of expectation and anticipation of the Big Day. We go to parties and we hire sitters and we slurp our bellies into last year’s Spanx so we can impress and dazzle our friends with good tidings and great joy. We decorate the kitchen in sprinkles and icing (perhaps frosting a sugar cookie or two in the process), and we say yes-yes-yes to every invitation that comes our way because we don’t want to miss one more minute of the magic and the merriment and the joy.
But in doing so we’re exhausted: tired and sleep-deprived, we exhibit the very nature of Scrooge himself. We’re short with others – quick to anger and poor in love – and we’re even shorter with ourselves, pummeling our insides as the cycle begins anew at the start of each wintry, tinsel-filled day.
We’ve forgotten to enter into rest and reflection, to sit with that cup of hot tea and enter into the Holy, embracing the unknowing tension of the season.
We’ve neglected to steady our ears for “…the inaudible sound of a secret seed…”, to listen for Hope’s silence in the midst of the rustle and the rush.
As for me, change is imperative. So I begin with the smallest of shifts, and when that cup of coffee first graces my hands, I read a poem or two and I engage in antiquated prayers. I whisper “…enmeat yourself so we can rise onto our feet and meet,”** as I stare google-eyed at the little one perched atop my lap, holy cooing his reply.
I make an effort to steady my heart for this birthing grace, breathing hymn’s echoing haunt:
Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He…***
Because sometimes, my friends, you just have to begin with a change. And that is what I’m doing.
How about you? If you celebrate Christmas (or participate in the Advent season), how do you prepare your heart for the Incarnation? Regardless of belief, what’s one change you’ve made lately that’s made all the difference? (Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out A Very Foodie Giveaway, a contest I’m doing with five other writerly bloggers so YOU can win!)
* = “Freeman Creek Grove” by Paul Willis
** = “Incarnation” by Amit Majmudar.
*** = Translated from a poem by Aurelius Prudentius