Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Christmas Creep

It's the night before Thanksgiving and I am pretty much done with my Christmas shopping. The last time I was in a store on Black Friday I was a sporting goods store employee dealing with harried, rude customers with a nasty turkey hangover fighting over the newest Columbia jacket. (You know you had one. You wore it every day to high school with jeans, hiking boots and a flannel shirt.)  I vowed as I left the mall that afternoon that I would never be responsible for subjecting any other human being to what I experienced that day. And I've kept my vow.

Here's the deal. I do my best to be done with Christmas shopping by November 1st. Sometimes that happens, sometimes life prevents it. Most years this has meant that I don't have to deal with the crowds or even the decorations and pop Christmas music being played over and over. And over. For the record, if you are sick of that music, think about the people who hear the corporate holiday cd played thousands of times over the course of the season. I'm surprised they don't all rebel and start throwing merchandise at the speakers (or us) by December 1st. Some of you might be thinking I'm crazy and why in the world wouldn't I want to shop to Justin Bieber's version of some previously sacred tune? The answer is simple: I want the Christmas season to actually be about Christmas. And the way America is going, that's getting harder and harder. The Christmas creep means that I've got to be finished shopping before Halloween to avoid the overblown Christmasland of the stores. Really, people?

I want to make something clear. I love Christmas. The reason I shop so early and am finished with that aspect of it is because I love Christmas so much that I actually want to be able to enjoy it. To remember what it's actually about. To not have December be my busiest, most stressful month of the year. To let my son see a mom who is just resting, soaking in the joy of the expectation of her Savior, rather than running from store to store frantically buying stuff, so busy that I even forget to do our advent calendar with him in the mornings. I want what he experiences in that final month before Christmas not to rile him up for what will be under the tree but to be a chance for him to continue to learn about this God who loved him enough to send his Son to earth in the form of a little baby- to really ponder that unbelievable, world-altering, life-changing good news. To cultivate in him at a young age the idea that Christmas isn't about Macy's or Santa or, to be blunt, him. I want the story of Christmas to saturate our household so much that when the day actually arrives the presents under the tree aren't the focus because it's not what we've been waiting for. Jesus is the focus because HE is what we've been waiting for. For the record, this is why we don't do Santa or Elf on the Shelf around here. I never want my son to think that Christmas morning is about him or that it's some kind of reflection of how well he has behaved this year. We give gifts because we give them. Not because he deserves them.

And I've decided that there is one kind of Christmas creep that I should be supporting. Advent is this beautiful time when we often get better about creating and implementing family traditions that point to our Savior. And why, for goodness sake, shouldn't that creep into the rest of my year? I should be creating these types of traditions for February and June and October, not just late November when we're setting up the advent calendar and manger scene and wondering, yet again, what this Jesse tree thing is. Sure, we talk about God around here, we say our prayers, we discuss what we learn in Sunday school and read the Jesus Storybook Bible to our son like everyone else our age seems to do, but what daily practices are we implementing into the life of our family to make sure that we are not just worshiping our own family life but that we are actually worshiping God?

This advent, with the shopping done and the decorations going up this coming weekend, I'm looking forward to peaceful mornings over coffee to ponder this question. How can the real Christmas creep into the rest of our year? How can I cultivate an atmosphere of joy and expectation of encountering the living God well after we take down the tree and turn off the Christmas lights?

And how, for the love of all that is good and holy, can I avoid hearing any more Justin Bieber music ever again? 

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