I'm sure grateful that our Tuesday small group has been doing a Bible study along with a companion book that's entitled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. One of the points that the book's author, Joanna Weaver, makes in the book is that there are many good things that you can do, worthy and wonderful causes to which you can comit, but that you'll end up burned out if these are not the things to which God is specifically calling you. She refers to one of my favorite scriptures from Matthew 11:27-29 where Jesus asks if the people are burned out and encourages them that if they follow Him, they don't have to live that way. Weaver makes the point that sometimes we end up burned out and frustrated because we load ourselves down with good things that God isn't calling us to, and that if we'd just take the time to follow what He has for us, that we'll be able to live in His peace.
So, as this Christmas season is beginning, I've been mulling around the question of what's God calling me to this Christmas? How does He want me to lead my family?
I don't know that I have the entire answer yet, but God has spoken a few things to my heart. He's spoken to my heart the need for traditions that keep Jesus center, the need for service and giving, the need to recognize that as my children grow some of the things we've always done won't continue to be relevant, and the need to recognize that the "perfect Christmas" is NOT what it's all about.
So as we're starting the season I've been making some changes to the usual "perfect Christmas" stuff that I do that always leaves me so tired. Like decorating the house. Over the years I've collected many wonderful gifts, things my sons have made, and even some things I've purchased myself, that I use to decorate. In the past we've literally removed boxes of books, framed photos, wall art, and other home decorations to make room for all the Christmas things. All that takes a lot of work. This year we chose instead to only remove a few things and put out our two large nativity sets, put up a live tree with white lights (which we'll eventually decorate), have our advent wreath on the dining table, and a "Celebrate Jesus" banner outside. For this year, we're simplifying and doing without the rest.
As I've recognized that my 2 sons still at home are now practically adults, I realize that they have no desire to particpate in many of the things such as the Christmas chain, 7 presents for Jesus box opening, etc. that we've done in the past. So the only tradition we've kept from those is the advent wreath which we started tonight (I know, our family's time line has never followed with the rest of the liturgical world, and we've always done the dates a bit different. My sons have never noticed because we've always attended churches that have little to no liturgy). Even tonight the boys seemed a bit resistant, but I persevered to keep the priority of what really matters. For us this time of candle lighting, scripture reading, and reflection on our Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace in Christ, keeps the season in perspective. I'd mentioned earlier in the week that we'd be starting the advent wreath tonight, then today I checked with everybody to set a time to get together. But as that time advanced there were two schools friends at the house and the boys didn't want to do the advent wreath. I explained that I'm not asking a lot, but that this 15 minute time together is priority and that their friends were welcome to either join us or stay downstairs playing some Madden football video game in which I'd found them all engaged. Although I recognize that a more spiritual person than I would have somehow managed to get the friends engaged too, I was simply grateful that my own boys came to the advent table; that this did not become an issue of contention. I think that keeping to just this one thing that we all do together increased their willingness (of course the fact that this is the one time in a year that I have egg nog avaible doesn't hurt either). I was grateful that as we each took turns reading the script, scriptures, and prayers, that everyone got into the message.
I'm still praying about what God would have us specifically do this year with reguard to giving and serving. There have been some awesome projects which we've been involved with in the past that we could do again,...or maybe God's calling us to a new thing this year. We'll see.
What about you, how's the Christmas season starting out for you this year? What are some things that you do to make Christmas meaningful for you?