Walking Our Faith: When do you put up your Christmas tree? (column)
The answers on my Facebook page ranged from the day after Thanksgiving to December 25th. I put mine up last Monday. Mom informed me that hers went up on the same day.
The mantle above my fireplace is lined with elves, and bears, and nutcrackers. Around my Christmas tree are a bizarrely large collection of Santa Clauses. My small living room is festooned with every symbol of our cultural Christmas season.
Yet when you go upstairs, on a desk outside my bedroom you’ll discover a hand-painted wooden egg from Ukraine depicting the Nativity, sitting at the base of an antique cross. Simple and profound.
The downstairs scene fills my nostalgic longing for the joy this season is meant to represent, a magical time with family and friends. The upstairs vignette is what is in my heart.
Exterior and interior. This season is heavy with meaning. Even those who do not believe in the Christ child, whose birth we celebrate, cling to the promise of loved ones gathered together to open gifts and share heartfelt warmth on one of the darkest nights of the year.
These two scenes: The colorful raucous holiday season of parties and shopping and eating, contrasted by the quiet solemnity of our anticipation of Jesus’ birth, also describes the reality of our torn priorities.
Now we enter the season of Advent, four weeks preceding Christmas day. In the liturgical calendar, these weeks are meant to be a time of quiet preparation, as we ready ourselves to celebrate Jesus coming into the world as the Christ-child, Jesus in our lives each day, and Jesus’ triumphant return in the Second Coming.
But how do we balance our external holiday demands of our lives with much-needed quiet meditation on the meaning of this season?
Traditionally, the four candle Advent wreath is meant to focus our thoughts on one theme for each week: Hope and Forgiveness, Faith, Joy, and Justice and Peace. On Christmas Eve, a fifth candle is added to the center of the wreath to symbolize the birth of Jesus Christ.
But overarching the entire season of Advent, I’d like us to consider this question: Why?
Why did Jesus come into our world?
Why should we make Jesus a daily part of our interior lives?
Why do we should we live lives that allow people to see Jesus Christ in us?
Why do we need still need Jesus in our world today?
Over the next four weeks, we will consider each question and search for answers together. Let’s commit right now, to give ten minutes a day to renewing our relationship with God.
Recently, I’ve been reading a book on the Biblical and historical life of Jesus, told through a pilgrimage to the Holy Land by a Jesuit priest. It reminded me of how much I take for granted in my knowledge of the birth and life of Jesus, and how little I actually know.
I believe we all fall into the trap of familiarity at this time of year. We’ve heard the Christmas story so many times, we forget why it is essential and how dramatically it changed the history of our world.
Which is why, I believe it’s imperative that we reflect on the “Why” of the Christmas season. Advent is the perfect time ask ourselves why we believe in Jesus Christ, or if we feel it’s no longer necessary to believe? Where do you fall on this continuum?
Take a moment to ask yourself, honestly, are you going through the motions of singing Christmas carols that announce the birth of the Newborn King, with the same lack of awe as Frosty the Snowman?
The next four weeks of Advent are the perfect time to reflect on why we believe, or why we have lost our belief that Jesus can have a meaningful impact on our lives. Because if we can’t see Jesus working in our lives, we are wasting our time in church each week. When Jesus is alive in us, we are better for it and we share that love with others to make our world better. The next four weeks can change your life. Actually, God will change your life, it’s up to you, are you ready?
Join me, please? Let’s make this Season of Why culminate in our Best Christmas, ever.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of The Best Christmas: Unwrapping the Gift of Love that Will Make this Your Best Christmas Ever, available on Amazon.com.
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