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Notes from the Lay Leader - December 22

From Love Came Down at Christmas, by MeriLee Parish: Heavenly Father, please go before me throughout all the upcoming family gatherings, Christmas events, activities, and holiday festivities. I’ll see so many friends and family this month. Some know and love you and others don’t… please help me live out my faith each day.

Since I didn’t have a new Advent devotional book for 2022, I dug out an old one and am working my way through it with delight. It’s based loosely on Christina Rosetti’s poem, Love Came Down at Christmas (UMH 242). The author of the devotional book discusses our tendency to get so caught up in activities and preparations that we forget about the Christian purpose of the holiday.

There are so many overlapping holidays in December! Not only Hanukah and Kwanza, but the secular celebration of the winter solstice and the VERY GRADUAL return of more daylight in our northern climes.

Many Christian writers get so worried about our forgetting the birth of Christ that they seem to demand that we choose either to celebrate Christmas and nothing else or celebrate the solstice and nothing else.

In addition to being Christians, we are humans. Even if we don’t seem to be paying attention to the natural world around us, we know that daylight is scarce, and seasonal depression is reaching out to claim us. At the same time, we are aware that another year is almost ended, and we need to get together with various people important to us. In addition to the consumerism that Pastor Jeremy is railing against (hooray for him!), Martha Stewart and Joanna Gaines and various internet influencers are insisting that we can only be happy if we bake for days, spend time and money putting up decorations, wrap every gift as if it is going to be on display in a museum, put on our party clothes, get even less sleep than usual, and generally wear ourselves out trying to have a great time.

We are more capable than that. We can determine what is important. We can work hard on focusing on the right now. Maybe we bake fewer kinds of cookies. Maybe we only put up SOME of our decorations.

Maybe we pick one fun thing to do with our family every day. The children around us may be nine and six, but this is the only year they will be this age, so we need to allow ourselves to enjoy them. Don’t beat yourself up because the candy cane cookies came out crooked or didn’t get baked at all. Someone in your family may be 90+ years old. Enjoy their company now, and don’t worry about finding them the perfect gift. You may not have been in the mood to go to the company Christmas party, but when you are there, find something to enjoy.

In addition to PREPARING for the secular holiday, remember to ENJOY and CELEBRATE. In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus, remember to PREPARE for his arrival. We can do both, and still find peace in the stillness of December. God is with us always, and God wants us to be happy in this life.

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