I love Christmas – the traditions, twinkling lights and carols. My childhood Christmas memories feel idyllic, simple, understated and always full of family and a little bit of magic. As an adult, I found myself still enjoying but being exhausted by Christmas, depleted of money and energy by New Year’s Eve. When circumstances led to single parenthood, I flat out dreaded the holidays. It only reminded me of everything I didn’t have . . . and everyone I didn’t have.
We all know how December gets. The Thanksgiving plates are barely in the sink before the mad rush begins. Buy, consume, attend, wrap and out-do last year’s celebration. Every year that I let the rush drag me along at its manic pace I found myself sad and sort of empty come January 1. Like I had let something really magical and beautiful slip by. Like I missed it, and the truth is, I did. I missed the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, of the angel’s announcement to Mary, the long journey to Bethlehem and the silent night when Jesus came into the world in the most humble form of all – us.
Advent came to my rescue.
Advent comes from the Latin Adventus, meaning coming. While it is not a Biblically mandated tradition, it is one dating back to the early church as a way to prepare our hearts for Christmas, to experience the fullness and joy in celebrating Christ’s birth. It is about basking in the light of Christ and celebrating hope. Author and Pastor John Piper says this about Advent, “We . . . are starving for something. And what Jesus wants for Christmas is for us to experience what we were really made for—seeing and savoring his glory.”
You see, slow Christmas is about paying attention and fighting the holiday rush that will ever so slyly steal our joy. The madness of the holiday season can leave you frazzled and harried and frankly, sad. Slow Christmas turns cultural Christmas on its head and spends less on presents and instead is present.
The practice of a slow Christmas and observing Advent allowed me to breathe again. It loosened the noose of not enough and lonely that inevitably left me depressed each December. I began to serve instead of sulk and feel peace instead of pacing the malls to fill my children’s’ arms with stuff when all they really needed or wanted was me. The more I refused to be carried away, I found myself feeling joy again. My children are excited each year to set up our Christmas and Advent trees.
Advent can be observed a myriad of ways, some of the most popular being Advent calendars, wreaths with candles, and the Jesse Tree. To learn more and begin your own Advent traditions I have included resources below: