Someone sent me “How to Get Ready for Christmas: 20 Steps”. Maybe I’m over-sensitive, but was this another response to last week’s confession in the E-pistle that I don’t put up a Christmas Tree?
Wiki’s suggestions startled me. Instead of making the holiday easier or more meaningful, they offered an uneven list, descriptions of what people do during the season. Unless you were from another planet and completely unfamiliar with Christmas traditions, could it help?
But it’s always too easy to critique others’ efforts. And it’s better not to kvetch and finger point. So I made a stab at my own list… came up with 36 suggestions — one for each day of Advent & Christmastide (but only loosely ordered chronologically, especially since we’re some of the way into the season already).
This exercise got me thinking. Maybe my suggestions will help you too: with a different perspective; some triage; a new practice. Choose any that grab you, or strike your fancy. Or make up your own!
1) To your prayers (regular or irregular!), add one supplication: “God, help me have the Christmas YOU mean for me.” If you listen the whole time — from the beginning of Advent (Dec. 2) to Epiphany (Jan. 6) — you are sure to hear something!
2) Spring cleaning? What better day than Black Friday for identifying things to get rid of. Most of us have more than we need! Why shop and bring additional stuff home? Instead, bag what you are going to unload.
3) Mark’s Gospel includes no account of Jesus’ birth. What would your Christian faith be like without the Christmas story?
4) Advent candles traditionally represent Faith, Hope, Love and Joy. In a sentence, what do you, rock bottom, believe? What’s something you are hoping for? Who needs to be shown you love them? How are you a joy for others?
5) Christmas cookies are sweet and welcome. What other foods remind us of or share season’s promises?
6) To herald Jesus, God sent surprising messages via unlikely means and unexpected messengers to the hardly noticed corners of the world. What’s God mean you to hear… but you’ve missed since it’s not what you wanted, or where you were listening, or who you were willing to have bring you messages?
7) St. Niklaus, the source for Santa Claus, gave gifts out anonymously. Could you give secretly? What joy would that bring — for the recipient and for you?
8 ) Extra eating and the defeat of our diets comes with holiday parties and meals. Attend to the Incarnation: decide that by the end of the season, you’ll look less like Santa. Limit your intake; avoid unhealthy foods; give up unneeded calories for Advent!
9) “We Need a little Christmas right this very instant.” It’s a hard season for many, particularly those who are alone or far from the life they imagined. Could you offer someone “a little Christmas?”
10) “God sends the Son into the world, not to condemn the world…” Who is it time for you to stop condemning? How would that improve their life AND yours?
11) What was your favorite Christmas? Why? Help someone else or you yourself have that kind of holy day.
12) The animals live at the Creche from Dec. 10 to 28: care for them at least one morning or evening! (you didn’t think I was going to miss this one, did you?)
13) Who can you invite to church with you (Christmas is the easiest time of the year to do so!)?
14) Our Christmas story is quilted together from three Gospel accounts. Read them separately. How they relate the news, how they differ might surprise you. Study — read and rereading — each one more than once:
Matthew 1 and 2.
Luke 1:5 – 2:40.
John 1: 1-19.
15) Remember those items you identified on Black Friday, to get rid of? Who could use or would like them? DO NOT FEEL YOU HAVE TO FiND A HOME FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO NOT NEED: that could be unfair burden for those who know you! Goodwill is effective recycling and allows people to choose for themselves what they need/want.
16) Old First’s shelter will be open all day on Christmas and New Year’s. (Most places homeless men spend their daytime hours are closed holidays, and our social hall is their home.) Contact Billi to volunteer to supervise for a few hours!
17) Read Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.”
18) Christmas gifts are exchanged because God gave us Jesus Christ. Make a list of the gifts you see in others. It would be a special message in a Christmas card to let others know the gifts you identify in them.
19) The Gospel has been described as God’s love letter. Instead of, or besides Christmas cards, isn’t there a letter you’ve been meaning to write for too long?
20) The days are short; the nights long. You can’t get as much done! Give yourself some extra sleep during this season– a mini human hibernation!
21) “Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be attained; instead he humbled himself and took the form of a servant.” What would it mean to “humble yourself?” Determine a specific action, and try it.
22) Try simpler meals at Christmas. Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds didn’t have spreads like ours. Choose bread and broth one meal a week, for Sunday dinner perhaps. What you save donate to an organization fighting hunger.
23) Know someone who doesn’t fit in? Make room in your life, or at least in your holiday season for this person?
24) Know that feeling when you hold a new baby… seek a similar experience every day of Christmastide.
25) “God so loved the world.” Where do you feel particularly loved? Go there and give thanks for the experience.
26) During war times, sometimes, truces are called for Christmas. With whom could you make peace? Could you make it last longer than the holiday?
27) Stephen was the first Christian martyr; his stoning is remembered on Dec. 26. What do you do, or could you do, so the world recognize that you are following Jesus?
28) A star led the way to the Christ child. Can you be someone’s star? Who can you help find their way? Can you help people to believe more?
29) Use your Christmas tree as mulch in the garden or as compost.
30) Herod, fearful of “this new King who’d been born,” ordered “the massacre of the Innocents.” Just a vignette in our ancient story? Imagine the horror of parents whose first born are killed. Are there atrocities in our world we accept as a matter of course?
31) Watch Night Services began when slaves in the U.S. were waiting for the Emancipation Proclamation to take affect on Jan. 1, 1863. How do you need to be set free? What freedom do you hope for others and our world?
32) When Mary and Joseph dedicate Jesus in the Temple, Simeon is there waiting to see the salvation God has prepared. Has your faith left you waiting?
33) The Wise One’s gifts foreshadow Jesus’ death. What do you want to accomplish with your time — between entering this world and leaving it?
34) Between Christmas and Epiphany, the church squeezes in its remembrance of Jesus’ baptism. Think of your bath or shower as a baptismal reprise, your daily reminder of amending your ways and be washed clean. Write yourself a note to read next Christmas, “The change I will work for in myself this year!”
35) “If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise one, I would do my part. But what can I offer…” What do you bring Jesus?
36) In worship on Epiphany, you’ll be asked to name one another’s and our own gifts. Get ready by starting your list in advance.
See you in church,