I just heard a commercial this morning telling us the holiday season is all about more…more buying, more parties, more festivities, more food, more fun. I cringed.
For the last healing decade of my life less has been more for me. I’ve downsized our belongings, my wardrobe and my schedule. I do simple exercises and eat different, simpler foods. I’ve simplified vacations, holidays and especially Christmas.
Yesterday, in the breath between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Advent season, we decorated our home. It took two of us less than a couple of hours. Now, we can just enjoy it. (For those of you who receive my Inner Circle monthly emails, I wrote a little more about this for you in the December 1 email.)
With so much subtracting and simplifying it seems counterintuitive to add in anything, but adding in some Advent practices could change everything about your season.
What if you added in a daily advent reading of scripture, devotional and a prayer? I found a little book tucked away in my Christmas decorations by one of my favorite theologians, Richard Rohr. He reminded me already that Advent is about openness, space, room in our souls to receive God’s future (not the one we are pushing to create.)
Rohr writes that being open to God’s presence and work is exactly what it means to be Awake, which is a word used often in Advent. He mentioned other Advent words too: aware, alive, attentive, alert.
He reminded me that the mantra of Advent is Come Lord Jesus which is all about surrender, freedom and God’s kind of hope. Did you know those three words are among the final words of the Bible? (Rev. 22:20) (Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr)
So this Advent, I’m suggesting we consider another A word, Add. Add space, add room to breathe, add a spiritual practice so you can see and hear what God is doing. Add grace and surrender.
We just had a multi-day, amazing Thanksgiving celebration with many layers of our family and friends. It was rich and good and we were so very grateful. But in and out of it were some things that felt troubling. People we know who are struggling with grief, mental health issues, scary diagnoses, job frustrations, stress and of course this ongoing pandemic. There are the usual divisive political issues still swirling around all of us. There are things I wished I could change or fix or worries I have that take on a life of their own.
Have you had some of that not-quite-perfect or even downright-messiness this year or in recent seasons? If so, Add Advent. Add space to pray and let God have your worries. Add cushions of quiet between all your fun activities and gatherings. Add simplicity somewhere. Add the Advent mantra to your biggest worries and unsettled troubles, Come Lord Jesus. Not my will, God, but yours.
I’ll gently remind you it is okay to say no to ALL THE THINGS. The first Christmas had pretty much no things. Make your list of to-dos, wants and wishes, celebrations and gatherings and compare that list to the elements of the first Christmas. I’m guessing the lists will not match. It is truly okay to sit and stare at a star this year and listen for God’s voice and direction.
This year I simplified even more and only unpacked two manger scenes. Both are small. The one pictured is a vintage one that is probably about 3×4 inches in size. I paid $1 for it at an estate sale. You can see it only has Mary, Joesph, a camel and a baby.
It helps me remember that despite what commercials tell us, Christmas is not about more/big/loud/showy/consumerism. It is about Adding Advent in order to be open and receptive with enough soul space to receive God’s future. Come Lord Jesus.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. To read more of her blogs, sign up for the Inner Circle monthly email or to see upcoming speaking events, go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com.