This will likely sound strange, but I want to begin preparing for next Christmas. This desire comes out of a question on Scripture Union’s ‘Word Live’ meditation for yesterday. Actually, it was in the first sentence. In the ‘Prepare’ section, it asks, ‘Look forward not back – this is a new day, a new year, a new start. What would you like God to do with it?‘ The thought immediately came without any thinking, ‘I want to be prepared for next Christmas.’ I have always loved this time of year, and it is by far my favourite.
But, I think I feel this way after every Christmas. I don’t mean it’s a let down feeling. In the stretch toward December, there is usually a moment when I can point out and say ‘God met me here.’ This year it was at the midnight communion Christmas Eve service and watching Savannah put on impromptu Nativity plays this past week. But there is a sense, too, in which I feel that it has completely passed me by – even when I am not as busy (some of the plans had to change this year with snow and ice). This isn’t something connected to a longing to be back ‘home for the holidays’ (though I certainly miss some of the traditions we had in the US), but it’s something I have felt each year for the last 15 years or so (I’ve only lived in England for 7). I’m not exactly sure what I look for each year, but I seem to miss each year what made me fall in love with the season in the first place.
As the minister, I have a large influence on what goes on in my churches. I think my planning goes along the lines of hoping to find something that will reach out to me and it ends up as if I am throwing things up on the wall hoping something will stick. Most of what gets planned goes very well, but then I am always the one planning it. Come to think of it, I find it hard to explain what it is I am feeling, though I know what’s going on underneath without expressing it.
But when I say I want to prepare for next Christmas, I am realising that I don’t mean what happens from Advent Sunday to 25 December (Church activities fall off during what is actually Christmas!). I think I am figuring out that to fully embrace Christmas, I need to live out the full year and try not to cram a month’s worth of spirituality in one month. By living out the full year, when Christmas comes, it comes naturally because it’s what’s been going on all the time. Thinking through Advent/Christmas in the summer and September would become less of the random throwing things on the wall, but rise up from what has been going on all year. I want to let go of the bad habits and coping mechanisms I have used and replace them with more life-affirming and healing ones that will not increase the hope that in one swoop Advent will take care of it all.
So, it’s a tall order this evening. What do I want God to do with me starting today (or, well, yesterday as that’s when I read the devotion) that will allow me to celebrate Advent and Christmas more fully next year? I am starting by taking up the Biblefresh pledge to read the Bible. I have had my The Bible in One Year given to me by Methodist Conference 6 months ago, and it has been idle in all that time. Now is the time to pick it up. I will pray that God will speak to me through it and that God will give me the grace to give grace to myself when I have to start back over. But, I want to keep the commitment so that next year, I will indeed meet Christ at Christmas and find that he’s been there all along.