Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Why Are We Doing This?
If you are reading this in email, please scroll down for Monday's post.
What do the holidays mean to you? Do they mean mangers and stars and shepherds and a baby born? Do they mean menorahs and temple dedication? Do they mean solstice? Do they mean gifts and lights and shopping and Santa? Do they mean lots and lots of good food, parties, and family togetherness?
The holidays are huge on every level of our lives, no matter our religious faith (or lack thereof). That's why I think it's important for each of us to take stock well before we start and ask ourselves why we do the holiday stuff we do. When we truly understand why, we can more easily and intentionally decide what we need to do and what is (surprise!) actually optional.
Like many people, I find that I set the standard of the holidays a little too high. I want to do more than time allows. I underestimate how much time wrapping presents or baking cookies or addressing Christmas cards will take. I then lose sight of what is really important to me and get lost in the busyness of it all.
Of course, each one of you will answer the "why" question differently. There is no one right way to celebrate the winter holidays, although I would argue there are wrong ways. It's wrong to go into debt and it's wrong to be Scrooge. It's wrong to focus on things and not people. It's wrong to be ungrateful. These behaviors are wrong all the time, not just for the holidays.
So, how do we find a right way to celebrate the holidays for ourselves and our families?
I recommend starting at the heart of the holidays for you. Because I am a Christian, Christmas is about Christ's birth...the birth of God, self-limited, who came to teach us about love and sacrifice, mercy and faith. I need to keep my holiday activities centered on Christ. This isn't easy in the land of shiny tinsel and iPods, but it's worth it.
Your center may be quite different. Perhaps you want to focus on your family and friends. Or perhaps on community service. Or entertaining. Or giving.
Perhaps you're not in a happy place right now, and all the joy and excitement you see starting up around you simply makes you sad. Perhaps you're grieving or have lost your job or are going through a nasty divorce. Perhaps you get exhausted simply thinking about all the "pretending to be happy" you need to do for the next two months.
Whether you're entering the holiday season with joy or dread, think about what those holidays really mean to you, what is truly good about them for you. Write down a sentence or two. Then, think of what you need to do to focus on the good in the holidays.
Here are some things I will do to keep Christ in the center.
1. Worship in faith community. This means signing up to be liturgist during Advent and spearheading the Stephen Ministry ornaments for our congregation.
2. Teaching my children about Advent and Christmas and what it means to give, especially through Operation Christmas Child.
3. Writing about Advent and the Nativity for my blogs to help myself and other Christians keep their focus.
4. Reaching out to our community and the world through donations to missions. (I--and lots of other Methodists--give to the United Methodist Committee on Relief every Christmas.)
5. Remembering Jesus' birth with gratitude in all aspects of holiday activities.
For right now, think about what is most important to you for your holidays. Then, list 2-5 activities that are central to honoring that most important thing. Don't worry about a plan yet for achieving those activities, just think about what they should be...those non-negotiable things.
I'd love it if you shared your thoughts in the comments. Who knows what wonderful ideas you might spark for other readers or for me!!!?!