Searching for the Holiday Spirit in Advent

I remember the first year Christmas didn’t meet my expectations. I was a sophomore in high school and my parents had sold our home and bought another one a few miles down the road. However, because we hadn’t closed on the new house on the day we moved out of our old home, we were without a permanent roof over our heads on December 25.
We had plenty of family to stay with 45 miles away. My parents bunked at my grandparents, my sister and I slept at my aunt and uncle’s, and I can’t for the life of me remember where my brother was. In my adult hindsight, it really wasn’t that big of a deal. However in my 14 year old mind, the situation was utter turmoil.
I didn’t do well in chaos. I still don’t.
As you may guess, my attitude wasn’t stellar. Instead of Santa coming to visit, my stocking was filled with gifts from Scrooge and The Grinch. From that time on, Christmas had lost it’s magic for me.
I was in college the first time I really paid attention to the fact Jesus’ birth date was made up when Christians wanted a holiday of their own around the pagan Winter Solstice. That information added with the stress of consumerism fouled my December mood for years to come. I craved the same child-like hope and expectation I once had and mourned it’s disappearance.
Becoming a parent, a bit of the Christmas joy returned as my children learned the story of the nativity and letters to Santa resulted in wrapped surprises under the tree. Still, the pressure around buying and Black Friday and “want, want, want” slowly turned my holiday depression into one of anger. I couldn’t even sit in Sunday worship without judging everything as a farce.
In this present season, gifts will be under the tree, but both daughters now know the real story behind St. Nick. I want to cry.
This is NOT the peace, love, and joy I’m supposed to be feeling.
Yesterday Advent began; the time to prepare our hearts for Christmas by studying the events leading to Jesus’ birth. I went to worship – afraid I’d once again sit in anger. Instead, I saw hope.
Painting by Katie Matheny
In the prayer for Advent, I heard these words:

We are an impatient and busy people. We are propelled into Christmas and swept away by activity. We quickly become hopeless, bogged down by loneliness and busyness. Remind us of Your hope. Help us to slow down and savor Advent. Teach us in this rhythm of expectation to see you at work in our lives and in the world.

Your son was not born in a castle to strong rulers. He was born in a barn to a vulnerable young woman. Open our eyes to the vulnerable around us in our own communities and in our global home. Equip us, Your people, to fill in the valleys and make the rough, smooth.*

For the first time, the thoughts of magic, of Santa, of shopping, of pressure melted away. God is with us. I need to slow down and recognize all that is happening in our world. Yes, there is hurt. But there are also miracles.
This December, I’m not celebrating a day – I’m celebrating a life. 
And so I vow to make this Christmas season different than any other. 
I will try my best to release anger at advertisement pressure.
I will sit in worship and actually worship. 
I will slow down. 
I will use my own vulnerabilities to relate to the vulnerable around me. 
I will hope.
I will expect.
332/365 first advent
Photo credit: rosipaw on Flickr

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. To make the most of this day, I will be sharing many worthy non-profits on social media. If you aren’t already, follow me on Facebook or Twitter. I pray we all recognize what the life of Jesus was all about.
*Prayer from World Vision with adaptations by Sandy Hoppenrath


  1. ccassara says

    The past couple years I've been feeling…flat…at Christmas. This post inspired me to celebrate differently. I tweeted it. ;-))))

  2. says

    Katie – I think we are turned off for the same reasons and I love the idea of celebrating Hanukkah. Your picture gives me hope, and I can't wait to see the rest of the drawings. I wish you'd make prints of these.

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