So my kids are done with school and I'm panic-stricken, almost. I still have shopping to do. The house is a mess, and with the kids home all day for the next two weeks, it will get messier. The needles are already falling off the tree, I'm trying to get deeper into the first draft of a manuscript, absolutely NO gift-wrapping has taken place, and I miss my parents badly.
If all of this isn't a call to slow down and take several cleansing breaths, I don't know what is.
So: Breathe. And again. And one more time.
A Jewish friend asked me a few days ago about the meaning of Advent. A stock answer would be something like this: It's when Christians reflect on and celebrate "the reason for the season," e.g. the birth of Jesus.
I hate that little five-word rhyme, by the way. It's accurate, but strikes me as being almost unforgivably smug. There are lots of reasons for the season in this multi-cultural world in which we live and move and have our being. Families of all faiths and creeds gather. Presents are exchanged to mutual delight and/or horror. Meals are shared, hikes are taken, movies are watched, gossip is bandied about, memories taken out and turned over and given a good polishing before being tucked away for another year. New relationships, new lives are celebrated, and endings are mourned, processed, respected. Or not: family gatherings are notorious for digging up old hurts and inflicting new ones, despite our best intentions.
Advent, for me, is a time of questioning. What does it mean that I celebrate Christmas? How do I bring the spirit of Christmas into my interactions with my family, friends, strangers? What effect does being a liberal, left-wing, Bible-as-story-but-not-as-inerrant-word-of-God, post-modern Christian have on my daily life? What effect do I WANT it to have? Who is Jesus Christ to me, anyway? Why do I pray? Why, other than the gifting and gathering parts of the holiday, do I celebrate Christmas? What parts of the Christmas story really resonate with me, and why? What does it mean that Jesus was born in poverty, and his first visitors were poor shepherds and their fluffy but undoubtedly smelly little sheep friends. Also, today: Where the hell did I leave my iPod, and do I buy myself another?
What questions are you asking yourself as we head full-speed into the gaping maw of Christmas? I look forward to your comments.
As always, if you have questions, you can leave them in the comments section, below.
Thanks for reading.