"On the first Sunday in December, I sit in church and hear these words:
Now is the time to wake out of sleep: for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
And I think: now is the time to make a purposeful trip to the supermarket and do the shopping for all the baking that needs to be done. Now is the time to make sure all the church programs and neighborhood parties and school activities are penciled in on the calendar so we don't overbook like we did last year. And if we really are going to get a goose for Christmas dinner, then now is the time to order it from the butcher.
Now is the time to pick up last year's party dress from the cleaners! Now is the time to get up in the attic and dig out the Christmas decorations! Now is the time to get the children to the barber, and see if we can't get the carpets shampooed before the open house on the fourteenth, and call the university to see if they have any decent tickets left for this year's performance of A Christmas Carol."
--Alice Slaikeu Lawhead, "Advent"
It is two and half weeks before the first week of Advent, and yet I am already feeling behind in my Christmas preparations. Which is, of course, insane, except for the fact that it's not, not if I want to be intentional about Advent and Christmas this year.
I don't mind that Christmas is a big blend of the religious and the secular, but in my experience, if something's going to get squeezed out of the equation on any given year, it's the religious stuff. Too much glitzy and glimmery competition. The religious celebration part of it sinks beneath a pile of wrapping paper and credit card receipts.
Don't get me wrong, I love the glittery aspects of Christmas. I love trees and presents and shiny paper. I love secular Christmas carols (though I could do without hearing them until mid-December) and baking sugar cookies with the kids. I love the Christmas specials--"Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "A Year without a Santa Claus," and "Rudolph."
But I always feel sad those Christmases when I don't feel the true Christmas spirit, which comes, for me, from feeling connected to the wonder and excitement of Jesus's birth.
So this year I'm planning ahead. I'm already thinking presents. I'm already thinking Christmas cookie decorations and wrapping paper and extra scotch tape. I'm already thinking, 'Time to address the Christmas card envelopes.' Because when Advent begins on December 2nd, I want to be there. I don't want to be so distracted by ten million other Christmasy things that I forget to put out the Advent wreath until mid-December.
This year we're going to do up Advent around here. We're going to be talking about waiting. We're going to be talking about wonder. And, sure, we'll be talking about Santa Claus, too. My big hope is, if I get the running around done now, there will be time to talk about everything. This year I want time to ponder, to sing, to listen, time to hear the animals talk, time to watch for the light.