Christmas Dissonance {More Advent Thoughts}

I have long struggled with the reality of living in a busy culture. A culture that has certain traditions and expectations (not necessarily bad ones either). A culture that is run by a clock with deadlines and appointments and places to be. Constantly.

And, especially during any kind of holiday. Like, oh say, Christmas.

I wrestle with it because I have conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I bemoan the hectic pace and the expectations. The December to-do list can be crushing. On the other hand, I really like doing some of the things I do. I like making teacher gifts. I like decorating the tree and baking cookies. I like the added events like Christmas parties and concerts.

As a result, I feel a great dissonance. I want to keep Christmas simple. Even though I know it has become a circus. But I don’t totally want to kill the circus. Because it’s fun. Even though I know the circus can be a little distracting. And so it goes. Dissonance. In my soul. Over Christmas.

Usually, I just try to be more organized. I don’t truly simplify. I just organize the chaos a little better. But even THAT only sort-of works. Because I get halfway through December and realize I’ve been making Rick’s favorite Christmas cookies for other people. But not for him.

Last year, I was super proud of us because we decided to only send our Christmas card/letter/picture thingy out every OTHER year. I know, right? Just every OTHER year. Whew. Those McKees are really taming the circus with that one. Impressed, aren’t you?

Well, I can’t say that I’ve solved the dissonance in my soul over this whole thing. I haven’t. I’m still wrestling. BUT, I’ll leave you with a few words from my Advent devotional. I’m glad for voices that challenge me to keep wrestling. (Otherwise, I’d probably just believe the Target commercials and give into buying more stuff to make my house more perfect and my kids more happy.)

This entry is penned by Loretta Ross-Grott, an American author and dramatist.

The intensity and strain that many of us bring to Christmas must suggest to some onlookers that, on the whole, Christians do not seem to have gotten the point of it. Probably few of us have the faith or the nerve to tamper with hallowed Christmas traditions on a large scale, or with our other holiday celebrations. But a small experiment might prove interesting. What if, instead of DOING something, we were to BE something special? Be a womb. Be a dwelling for God. Be surprised.”

Well, there you have it.

Advent Reflections {Sharing from Watch for the Light}

As I mentioned yesterday, I’d like to use my blog space to share snippets from the Advent book I’ve been reading this year. It’s a great collection of thoughts from various authors/speakers.

This is one is by Madeline L’Engle. It’s just a couple of paragraphs but I love the imagery she conjures:

Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all His love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?”

Think about that for a sec. Don’t you just love image of it? All the universe pausing at this one moment in time at the wonder of it.

She goes on: “Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing. Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer enough, and it is time for birth.

Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years…

Yes. This.

This is Christmas.


How to Slow the Season

Today is the first day of December. In 25 days we will be celebrating in homes all across the country. Those of us who claim to follow Christ are supposed to be celebrating His birth. But, I wonder if we really are. I wonder if we’re really celebrating the American Dream with some Jesus platitudes thrown in.

I think we sense that we’re a little “off” and that somehow Christmas has gotten off track. We taste the dissonance. We even attempt to change. For most of us, the solution has been to get more organized, not really reform our heart’s focus.

What if we made it less about better time management and gift budgeting… and more about Jesus? I don’t want to just put a governor on my spending or make better lists or freeze meals ahead of time. I want to actually change where I focus my gaze. On what Whom I set my affections.

Some two thousand years ago, the Creator of this vast universe did the unthinkable. He stepped down from His throne where He receives honor and praise and glory unceasing. He left all of that, squeezing His infinite self into frail flesh.

I think we only sort of fathom what that meant for Him and way it changed everything for us.

Maybe this December could be about trying to fathom just a little bit more of it. Would you join me in trying?



The Best Gifts

Gifts. We talk about them a lot at Christmas. We wrap them up and decorate them pretty.

But, I wonder if some of the best ones aren’t under the tree at all. Perhaps the most precious gifts are the moments. Time spent and memories made.

Some of my favorites from this weekend:

* Christmas Eve with Crossroads Community Chapel and the seemingly endless stream of kids coming to hear about the Gift of gifts.

* Sebring cousins bunched together at the Christmas Eve service. I still can’t get over what a blessing it is to go to church with my sisters and their families.

* Holding Baby Stella in her Christmas finery (those cute silver shoes!) and loving that I’ve gotten to watch her momma blossom from an unsure college sophomore to a godly wife & mom.

* Making snowball cookies to the delight of my family and friends.

* Puzzling with Mom McKee.

* Space. Quiet moments. No schedule.

* Building Legos – just me and my Madison.

* Laughing, laughing, laughing. It’s one of our family’s  love languages.

* Christmas hymns and rich lines of truth. Words pregnant with meaning like “Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.” Pure poetry.

* The constant parade of photos tucked into Christmas greetings from dear friends sprinkled around the globe. Our lives are better for knowing them.

* Cozy under our new Christmas quilt fresh in the mail all the way from Mississippi. My mom’s love stitched in. Did she envision snowy Ohio days and us under it as she labored?

How about you? What were your gift moments this weekend? Will you join me in the gratitude?

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