By Bonnie Baxter
The Season! December. It’s here.
I’ve always loved Christmas! I love the lights, the music, and the extra kindness most people seemed to show for a month or so. But as I got older, Christmas somehow got harder. It was overwhelming enough to keep up on regular house tasks and then add in decorating for Christmas, working, parties, concerts, not to mention shopping for the perfect gift for loved ones and having picture-perfect photo cards to send out. Also, my kids need a mom and my husband deserves a wife. My expectations for myself exceeded my abilities significantly for a few years. The joy of the season was more like a haze, or a daze, with faint glimmers of the magic that once was.
So every year for the last few years I’ve tried to reclaim more of what is important to me at Christmas. I gave away a few big boxes of our decorations a few years ago to keep it more manageable around here. I have said no to some invitations and resisted my own urge to ‘plan a big party. I have sometimes taken a break from social media to help me focus on the people around me instead of a screen.
I’m still learning balance in this, and every year is going to look different, depending on where I’m at with life and work and what’s going on in my family. It’s important to me, so each year I look for God’s guidance on what to add or take away from our holiday schedule to keep my heart focussed on what matters the most at Christmas. This year, I am spending time each day in December contemplating and journaling about Christmas and Advent, in the hopes it will encourage me and maybe a few others in their journey through December.
I was thinking about gifts that I’ve received through the years for my birthday. And thinking about how receiving a gift can be a humbling experience. You can’t truly appreciate a gift from someone else and be prideful. It’s humbling to open your hands and receive what someone is giving you, whether you need it or not. The giver of a gift is vulnerable too, showing care and thought toward the receiver and offering a part of themselves to someone else. The whole exchange is kind of intimate in a way, an offer and a receiving and a trust.
Thinking of advent as a gift in that context is meaningful for me. The Creator planned a gift that He knew you and I needed. He gave a part of himself, a holiness in human form, whether or not we decided to accept and receive his gift. As we wait this month and ponder the birth of Jesus, I want to have that humble heart that accepts this gift, leaving my pride and insecurities and plans of the way I thought things should be, and humbly opening my hands to receive.
The posture of open hands works well in this world too, even though it is risky and hard. It exposes us, makes us more vulnerable, open to being hurt, and requires leaving that pride behind, but I have found that it allows true relationships to happen, and I see more beauty in my life when I choose to open my hands and live with vulnerability and trust. Let’s look for the gifts God brings us in December. Yes the tangible, but also the intangible ones, and let’s spend some time drawing near to the giver of good gifts!