“Happy Advent!”

Recently, a woman greeted me with the statement, “Happy Advent!” I had never heard nor used that as a seasonal greeting before and therefore, decided to do some research.

Over two thousand years ago, our Roman counterparts observed Advent to celebrate the Second Coming of Christ. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when Christians tied Advent to Jesus’ birth. It then involved the four Sundays leading up to Christmas in which all were to anticipate the birth of Christ culminating in the Nativity. In essence, we Christians were anticipating Christ’s birth and His Second Coming in the future via special services on each Sunday during the month of December.

Today, Advent seems practiced, but not completely understood. We light candles and recite scripture, but are we truly preparing our hearts for the reality of the birth of the Savior of mankind? I definitely need a staunch lesson in Advent. I hate to admit that I’ve missed the joy and reverence that reflect true belief.

While watching a Hallmark Christmas special recently with my husband (yes, he’s a patient man), I finally remarked, “Why is every one of these about some Christmas recital or pageant?” My husband said, “Because they can’t talk about Jesus so all they have are traditions.” It struck me that Christmas for many, like Hallmark, is just a tradition like the Fourth or July. How weird it seems to “go through the motions” when God’s Son’s birth is our entire reason!

I find myself in a flurry of activities this time of year with some invisible clock ticking away my inadequate abilities to perform. Yes, it’s December 7, and no, I don’t have a Christmas tree. I want one but just haven’t gotten to it yet. Does that mean anything in the grand scheme of what I claim I believe? Nope, it doesn’t. Keeping perspective during this season of Advent is an act of discipline that seems unnatural.

I love decorations, trees, Christmas music and baked desserts. Eggnog with some assistance from Evan isn’t horrible either, I might add. But what in the world am I doing all this for if it’s just a ritual and tradition without deeper meaning? I find I can become a green-bodied, yellow-eyed Grinch if I’m not careful. It’s like default mode to get caught up in the flurry of activities but miss the point entirely. If Christmas is truly the grandest birthday party, maybe I should change a tradition or two to include that belief?

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

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I often wonder why we practice certain traditions.  For instance, why do we bring huge, live trees inside our home during the holidays?  It seems absurd to cut down a tree, drag it inside our homes, argue over who is going to water it, and then proceed to add lights and decorations just so we can remove it and complain about all the needles for the rest of the year.  To further add to our bizarre behavior, we have evolved to convenience ourselves with fake, plastic, “feel real,” $1,000 trees to simulate the same experience but avoid the mess and allergies.  You can even buy Frasier Fir room spray to emulate the fresh, woodsy scent of the real thing. Next, we will likely add fake bugs and a simulated squirrel like in the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

Growing up I couldn’t wait to get the Christmas tree up in our home.  Being a small child in the oh so stylish 1970’s meant a pathetic, fake, poor excuse of a tree with gaudy, colorful, blinking lights, homemade ornaments, and silvery, thrown tinsel from the dime store.  But, oh what a thrilling sight!  I recall us children pestering our mother to please get the tree down from the attic so we could begin.  Once retrieved, we still had to wait additional days before she would let us decorate it. It never dawned on me she was stalling by saying the metallic-limbed tree needed “to fall” first. I suppose all mothers have to preserve their sanity somehow.

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Once married, my husband and I were quite frugal but it was mostly my being dutiful that we got our tree from my husband’s Christmas Tree Farm.  Before you imagine rows of lush, evergreen, sky-reaching pines, picture this instead…. He had planted a hundred Virginia pines a few years prior but didn’t adequately space, trim, nor shape them.  Lo and behold, we took the “Charlie Brown Tree” to the next level.  The gaping holes, missing sides and contorted shapes ensured our tree was truly one of a kind.  They were also usually 9 feet wide- go figure.

When our children were little, my controlling nature was tested every Christmas.  They loved helping mama decorate the tree but having triplets meant all our ornaments went to the bottom of one side of the tree and I had to (gasp!) leave them that way until they went to bed.  Since our boys’ grabby little hands were always pulling on the ornaments, my husband would use fishing wire and tie the top of the tree to a hook in the ceiling.  We had way less downed trees after that.  Necessity is truly the mother (or father) of invention.

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Hello, Christmas?

Hello, Christmas?

Will you please go away and come back later? I’m just not ready to hear your radio jingles or to hear Karen Carpenter pine for home. It’s not that I’m being Scrooge, but the premature holiday season sets me ill at ease.

Would you consider this instead? I’d actually love to sing bygone carols in a candlelit, pine scented church pew that smells like the passing of time. Or the chance to gaze upon a beautiful Nativity and to meditate on what Jesus’ entrance into this world has meant.

Could you please also skip Black Friday this year? Shopping deals, getting up at midnight to beat crowds and waiting outside a store so I can stampede in like livestock make me want to poke myself in the eye with a fork. Maybe we could just have a nice meal together instead?

Oh, and the card thing- let’s do away with that. Fifty cents a stamp, procuring the perfect family photo, and guilt over my carbon footprint killed that for me long ago. People still tell me they liked my card when I compliment theirs so I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway.

However, let’s make an agreement about food. Food is non-negotiable. Warm wafts of oven baked ham don’t bother me at all. Neither does a table of homemade, baked desserts. A slice of chocolate pecan, bourbon pie with a hot toddy are completely acceptable. Walking into a warm home smelling of nutmeg and cinnamon actually have the Pavlov effect of a loving hug. So, let’s agree to keep the food.

You know what, Christmas? I think with these tweaks you might be starting to look a whole lot like your cousin, Thanksgiving. Let’s invite him over now and I’ll visit with you later. Is that a deal???