the spirit of the season

It’s the first Monday of Advent, and I’m trying to get into the spirit of the season.

For most, once Thanksgiving has left us with nothing more than a wishbone, it’s time to focus on Christmas. That means shopping, decorating, baking and stressing are in full force. It’s time to create the “Perfect Holiday” (whatever that is) or have oneself a merry little nervous breakdown while trying. The radio stations are playing pop favorites, carols, and even hymns 24/7. The stores are decked out in over the top colors/lights/giant spinning ornaments. Santa has been ho-ho-ing it up at the mall since early last week.

And it’s the first Monday of Advent, and I’m trying to get into the spirit of the season.

To be honest, I love this time of year. I love the shopping and decorating and parties. I like hearing Christmas music on the radio (hey, anytime I can hear someone singing about Jesus on secular stations is pretty cool.) I truly enjoy all the excitement the world offers us now, and I believe that mostly, it is good. It’s OK to enjoy the beauty of decorated trees and illuminated homes in my neighborhood. It’s perfectly reasonable to take in the children’s Christmas concert with a big grin on my face. It’s pure joy to watch the Christmas TV specials I enjoyed as a child, now while holding a child or grandchild on my lap. The joy of the season is good, and ours to enjoy. But the spirit of the season – the Advent season – asks for something more from us.

Advent used to be observed as a “mini-Lent,” and while I doubt such a nostalgic turn is likely, I’m proposing we at least stop for a second to consider the possibility of observing Advent at all. Instead of rushing headlong into Christmas, can we take a moment to prepare ourselves for the real meaning of the holiday?

I for one will never nix Santa or stop shopping on Black Friday. But I intend, at least for this first Monday of Advent, to try for some simplicity. For years my family has maintained the tradition of lighting candles on an Advent wreath. My goal this season is to focus on the act of lighting just one candle – making a resolution each time I do so – to live more peacefully, in more simplicity, with more kindness.

If you have an Advent wreath, don’t worry too much that you don’t have the right prayers to recite or that the children are fighting over who does the lighting. (Now you know what happens at my house!) Instead focus on the act of lighting that one candle each week. Think about the simple action of striking a match and bringing light into the world. Think about the small ways you can invite the peace of Christ into your heart, your home, your family, in the coming week.

And then go out shopping and do your decorating and baking. And when you are tempted to be overwhelmed with stress, remember the candle – remember the Light that comes into the world, even today. And share that Peace with all.

Have a Happy Advent!

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