These final days of Advent I know well the tension of the soon, but not-yet. Christmas is coming. We have the calendar to tell us what the people of ancient times only knew by faith. Not only that, but we live in the already came and surely will come again just as He said. We didn't get to see Him with our own eyes, but we hope for the next sighting to be soon.
For now, may I share a few of our celebration practices for the 12 day feast of Christmastide? (an excerpt from Parenting Unrehearsed: Family liturgies for Christmastide to Epiphany, 2012)
I find it takes almost more attention, more discipline to celebrate well. Probably because the feeling of longing is more familiar than contentment and shalom. I'm grateful for the countless "good-enough" celebrations in my lifetime that whet my appetite for the great festival of Home we look forward to enjoying forever.
2. Make time to stay home. Read, watch movies, play games, take naps, take walks in the neighborhood. In our house, we're especially fond of the tradition of wearing pajamas all day as often as possible during Christmas.
3. Get outside. Take a road trip. Hike a nearby trail. Go skiing, sled-riding, ice-skating. This year we piled together in the van for the hour and a half trip to enjoy San Antonio's river walk. We were rewarded with a crisp, clear Texas night and a round yellow moon.
4. Savor food. In our house we don't do any Christmas baking until Christmas Eve day. This started out of necessity when my kids were little and it was easier to bake all in one day when Daddy was home, but I've kept the tradition as a way to build anticipation. When December 25 arrives we've only just begun to enjoy the sweet and savory treats of the season.
5. Extend your family. The last two years we've missed our extended family something terrible at Christmas. We're hoping that will change in 2013; at the same time we're glad we've had the opportunity to experience Christmas without family nearby. With twelve whole days to celebrate, we enjoyed spending a few of them with other people who were alone.
6. Sing Christmas carols. The Anglican worship service sings only Advent hymns during the month of December. We try to follow suit at home. Although -- I'm not gonna lie -- long about December 2 this year I caught Brian singing "Santa, Baby" in the kitchen one morning! The Sunday after Christmas our worship pastor plans a Lessons and Carols service leading us, in his words, in a last gasp of Christmas. With the frenetic pace of December, don't you love the idea of Christmas caroling at a nursing home or around an elderly friend's old upright piano during the last week of Christmas?
7. Throw a New Year's bash. More friends, more feasting, more game-playing, more music. Savor the excess.
8. Go shopping. Really. I'm serious. Retailers aren't trying to pull your heartstrings, they're trying to sell you stuff cheap. Meet a girlfriend, drive to the specialty shops you always want to linger in, or send your family out to the mall with their Christmas gift cards while you stay home and take a nap. Really. I'm not kidding.
9. Follow light like the journeying magi. Find every possible way to savor the beauty of light during the darkest time of the year. Light candles, build a fire, sit in the dark and look at your lit tree, visit a holiday light show in town, take a bath by candlelight, go outside and look at the stars.
10. Send Christmas cards or thank-you cards. When I was growing up my mother always sent her annual family newsletter at New Year's. Makes sense, right? This year I set up a card-writing station on our dining table so that throughout the week we'd all take turns writing thank you-cards.
11. Borrow the tradition of Boxing Day. Sounds sort of like a medieval version of Undercover Boss. Or the servant's ball at Downton Abbey. However you choose to interpret the meaning of this tradition, find a way to notice those you take for granted, give to those who rarely receive, serve the servers. One of the best opportunities we have for this sort of service here in Austin is to volunteer a Sunday morning at Church Under the Bridge, a ministry to Austin's homeless. We help set up tables, serve breakfast, mingle and listen to their stories
12. Stay firmly rooted in the Incarnation story. Keep reading after the manger, celebrate the magi's arrival, pray the words of Simeon and Anna in the temple. Notice the characters, ask the Father of Jesus to make you worshipers like the very first who bowed in adoration to His son. Pray a blessing over your house, pray for the fame of the Christ-child to reach every people group across the globe the same way it reached across the desert that first Christmas.
How about you?
What are some ways you practice celebration in your home?