I have felt my personal Grinch level creeping higher and higher this holiday season. It seems as though time speeds up every year, so last Christmas doesn't feel like it was very long ago. Plus we have struggled financially this year, which makes it difficult to buy gifts for people. And then there is my increasing feeling that this Christmas thing has become so hollow that there is almost no point anymore. After all, at least the way we tend to celebrate it, it has become a social expectation and obligation. Buy stuff, bake cookies, eat food, go lots of places, and then do more and eat more and buy even more!
I once read someone talking about a store putting out merchandise for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all at once; she referred to the combination as Hallowgivingmas... pronounced "Hollow giving mess." And that is exactly what I have started to feel. Like I said in my last post, I have never been the kind of person who likes to do things just because I "should" or because that's "just how it's done." Tradition is fine and dandy as long as I can feel the meaning behind it. But celebrating a certain way simply because it's a cultural expectation... that doesn't really work for me because my heart isn't truly in it.
So I've been Grinchy.
At the same time, I feel the urge to rediscover the anticipatory feeling I once associated with this time of year. As I child, I recall feeling a sense of wonder around Christmastime. Sure, some if it had to do with the idea of Santa, because wouldn't it be so COOL to wake up just in time to hear sleigh bells in the sky or reindeer hooves on the roof? But more than that, it was a feeling that something special was happening. Something sacred. There was a different feeling in the air, a feeling that miracles could occur, a sense of awe and wonder.
I miss that and I want to feel it again.
So when I read through the first couple weeks of the Advent readings in the lectionary, it seemed to be exactly what I have needed. For the first time this season, I began to feel more anticipatory and hopeful-- which is a welcome reprieve from the stress and frustration I had been feeling!
For me, these readings have put words to what my heart already knew: it is time for me to wake up spiritually. I have let myself fall asleep the past few months, and it is time to awake from my slumber and prepare my heart for worship. Not just worship in the sense many people think of, such as praise and worship songs at church, but worship in the sense of recognizing and glorifying God with my life.
Around this time of year it is so easy to become distracted by material stuff and expectations that I forget about the peace and goodness inherent in this season. How often do I pray for peace in people's lives and hearts? How often do I do my part to bring peace by seeking the good of others? Not only doing doing good for others, but also intentionally focusing on the good I see and offering love and encouragement.
When I feel God's peace, joy, love, and hope, my heart is softened, my soul is stirred awake, and I am more prepared for worship. And this makes me wonder if I can help others feel the same by seeking their good and helping bring peace.
And that, for me, is exactly what this season is about. I lose focus on it too easily, but there it is. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. I look around and see so little of that sometimes; at other times, I see it everywhere. Maybe it just depends on what I'm looking for. But I know that when I see it, I again feel the wonder and sense of sacredness of this time of year.