This year, I’m not buying it all.  I’m being selective, and only engaging those aspects of the lead-up to Christmas that I choose to.

I have no self-imposed deadline to complete the little shopping that I do (plus the grand-dudes have a ton of stuff already); I refuse to watch contrived television sentiment about Christmas in the Country, Christmas in a Charming Olde Tyme Village, or Charlie Brown’s Christmas.  I am ignoring the endless Christmas recipes that fill the newspaper and cooking shows.  I will do the holiday baking that calls to me and not feel guiltily about skipping the Krumkake, Lefse, and other butter-laden Norwegian delicacies that my mother churned out by the gross.  I will decorate my little cottage as I want to and embrace those traditions that really speak to me.

Less guilt; more spontaneity.

Less jumping through hoops; more inventiveness.

Less rote acceptance, more openness.

Less, period.

And in the less-ness, I hope to find a more authentic holiday for myself and maybe also my family.  I hope to find less anxiety and more moments of real connection with the Spirit that sustains and continues to feed me.

Doing things the same old way can have two different results: either the familiar routines feed us by giving us a real sense of the continuity of life and the comfort of tradition, OR we don’t admit to ourselves how empty and boring some of it has really become.

I wonder if some Christmas imagery and tradition hasn’t exhausted itself. I read that red and green are no longer the preferred decorating colors since people are tired of them!  (Turquoise is replacing green, I understand).

Cost is the elephant in the room of Christmas, USA, 2010.  One person in my family is under-employed and I expect all of you know a similar situation close to home.  Even Macy’s has economized — The Minneapolis Macy’s hasn’t redone its holiday display for three years – it’s still “A Day in the Life of an Elf.”  Hmmmm.

I wonder if we become frustrated trying to access the “sentiment” that is forced on us at every turn during December.  You can only hear “White Christmas” so many times and keep your response real.

The culture is so intense with its onslaught that some of us are truly tired of it all by December 20.  There’s a reason that the official church observance of Christmas doesn’t begin until December 24.  Unfortunately, with the intense lead-up, many of us don’t feel like singing Christmas carols for the 12 days of Christmas until Epiphany (coming of the Wise Men).

My favorite Christmas passage is this, from Luke:” And Mary, kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

I love this portrait of Mary with eyes wide open, taking it all in, but at the same time, needing time to sort out what in the world is going on, mulling over the incredible events she is part of, perhaps being selective about what things she keeps in her innermost heart and which things she doesn’t.  Mary is thoughtful, and I think Mary must have been selective, or she would have lost her mind.

Albert Holtz is a Benedictine who gives this definition of contemplation: “Contemplation is a long, loving look at the real.” 

Let’s search for those parts of the Christmas season that truly speak to us, and them give them “a long loving look,” as we ponder them in our hearts.

See you in church.

Barbara

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