Can I tell you something? December is not my favourite month, and Christmas is not my favourite holiday. There, I’ve said it.
What?! You might ask. How can you not love Christmas? It’s the season of joy. It’s a magical time. Peace and goodwill toward men and all that jazz. You call yourself a Christian for goodness’ sake, and you don’t love Christmas?! How is that even possible?
Oh, it’s possible, all right. I’ve felt this way for years. Oh sure, there have been Christmases that felt magical when seen through the eyes of my children and grandchildren. I’ve enjoyed the lights, the music, the food, and the giving and receiving of gifts. There have also been Christmases filled with stress and tears. Too little money. Too much to do. Not enough time. Unrealistic expectations. Too much alcohol. Too, too much or not nearly enough.
This year feels different. It’s turning out to be one of the most peaceful pre-Christmas seasons of my life. I’m intentionally leaning into Advent. For most of my adult life, in whatever church I attended, Advent seemed to be little more than an afterthought, if it was even mentioned at all. That changed for me a few years ago when I became aware of the liturgical calendar, started paying attention to it, and found myself in the company of others who observed it.
For the past few weeks, very morning I sit with a snoozing pup on my lap, reading and pondering a short meditation from Brian Zahnd’s The Anticipated Christ. Candles flicker on my desk and guide my thoughts. Hope. Peace. Tomorrow I will light the candle of Hope. (“Light,” is a misnomer. These are battery-powered programmable candles that come on of their own accord at a preset time in the morning and “burn” for the length of time I predetermined.)
During the day, Alexa plays an Advent playlist on Spotify (save for when we go out and I switch things up for Miss Molly, with the Soothly Dog Music playlist which, by the way, is good for people too). Other times, silence is my gentle companion.
I haven’t watched a sappy Hallmark movie. I haven’t listened to overly-cheery seasonal tunes except for what they play in Safeway or Shoppers Drug Mart. I haven’t baked, and I don’t plan to (though we’ll probably pick up a half dozen or so butter tarts from Moose Jaw’s iconic Maple Leaf Bakery at some point). I don’t think any of these things are wrong. I’m just not partaking this year. Instead, I’m focusing on the holy practice of waiting.
The only decoration in our home is our non-traditional tree and Advent candles in the front window. We’re going easy on gifts. I shopped months ago for Gerry and, as none of our kids and grandkids will be with us this year, we’ve already mailed what’s going to them.
I’m not going to prepare a big dinner for the two of us on the 25th. We’ll enjoy a special meal—simple, pared down, and delicious. We’ll read books, work on a jigsaw puzzle, play with Molly, and maybe go for a walk or a drive with our cameras. It will be quiet and quite simply perfect.
We enjoyed quiet Christmas days like this in the past, when we lived in Washington and returned to Canada early in December laden with gifts for the grands, returning home to spend a quiet Christmas at home. I enjoyed it then and I’m looking forward to it now.
Actually, that’s not true. I’m not “looking forward” to anything, really. I’m waiting. I’m being present in small moments and feeling grateful for them. I’m meditating on the birth of Jesus Christ—all that was foretold and all that is yet to be. I’m embracing the quiet, easy, contemplative season of Advent. It’s exactly what I need.