Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Open in the Waiting

The biggest challenge (for me) in preparing for Christmas, the coming of Christ, is to not get swept away in the busyness. There is so much to do. And MOST of these things are fun, delightful and desirable. It's difficult to say no to a party or to something we've been invited to do. And there are parties and gatherings we want to host as well. I want to do it all!

On this idea of making space during advent Bobby Gross writes,

"Clearly it takes some work, some wrestling against the culture and our own proclivities. But making it happen isn't all on us. A grace is also at work in the season. Think again of a pregnant woman. Yes, she must pay attention to her body and take care of herself, but the life within her mysteriously takes shape and steadily grows of its own accord."

I think we all feel it, whether we are celebrating Christ's birth during this season or not: Christmas has gotten out of hand. The consumption, the commercialization, the high expectations of dinners and gatherings to be like Martha Stewart and her staff put it all together. (don't get me wrong, I'm a big MS fan so I'm preaching to myself here) Even Charlie Brown noted the commercialization of this holiday back in 1965. It's nothing new. Which makes it all the harder to make it different. Have you tried swimming uphill?

One of the most practical things that Mr. Gross suggests (again, in his book Living the Christian Year) to fight the pressures of the season is to practice restraint.

"Could we skip mailing Christmas and send greetings at Easter instead? Or simplify gift-giving by making charitable donations in a loved-ones name as an alternative? Could we decline a holiday party or two? Or cut back on baking goodies-and on eating them? There is no right answers, of course, and we'll likely take different steps in different years. The point is to practice restrain as a countercultural act that opens up space in our lives for God."

It's been helpful for me to keep these things in mind. To think twice before I say yes to something. To really, truly SIMPLIFY. As I've been attempting to put these things into practice, I think I'd be remiss if I didn't practice what's happening on the inside as well.

Let's take a look inside a young girl who carried God as a babe. One last excerpt from my currently-favorite read. I hope and pray that a part of the words I shared have touched you in some way, as they've touched me. Peace this Christmas to you.

"Mary chooses a posture of openness: I am wholly yours, I am fully open to your Word, I believe, let it be so with me. A humble stance, a courageous yes. She is our model. By her posture she makes room for God. She too will have nine months to ponder the workings of God and to wait his arrival. Advent invites us to do the same. Stay open."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Enlarged in the Waiting

Remember that Christmas after you found out Santa Claus wasn't real? A total let down right. I've been trying to bring the "magic" back into Christmas for years. 

Christmas Day itself actually, is often times a let down. It's just one, single day. And before you know it, it's dark outside and you're sitting on the couch in some sort of sugar/food/gift coma surrounded by empty boxes wondering where the heck you're gonna find space for all of your new stuff.

I don't believe Christmas was meant to be just a one-shot-a-year deal. Hello, the 12 Days of Christmas? But even before Christmas Day arrives, there's excitement in the waiting. The anticipation. Days brimming with hope. And if you're the kind that follows, is interested in or even just intrigued by Jesus, there is MUCH to expect. The type of expectation that won't let you down. 

Around Easter time this past year I referenced a book called "Living the Christian Year" by Bobby Gross. Next to the Bible, I would venture to say that this book has had the most impact on my spiritual journey than any other book I've read. On the subject of Advent, he quotes another author who beautifully describes the waiting we do during Advent. 

"Of all types of waiting, the waiting of pregnancy is most like the waiting that we do during Advent. The waiting of pregnancy is like the waiting we do for God." - Wendy Wright from her book Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming

Think about it. When someone is pregnant they are consumed by it. And often times, so are the people around them. We throw parties and give gifts. We have such hopes and dreams of the future to come. It's all we can talk about. Scripture captures this beautifully:

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Romans 8:22-25 The Message

In a way it's obvious. Christmas is about the birth of a baby. Mary was obviously pregnant. Of course pregnancy is the epitome of anticipation.

So things have been happening around the Martin household, both inward and outward, in light of this season of waiting. More on that later. For now, I'll leave you with a little something else from Mr. Bobby Gross:

"Advent is a season for waiting; we wait for the coming of God. We need him to come. Our world is messed up and we are messed up. We lament our condition and long for God to set things right, to make us better. So we pray and watch for signs of his presence. We do all we know to do so that we are open and ready. In the midst of hardship and disappointment we continue to wait. We wait in hope. We believe that something is happening in our world, something is taking shape in our lives, something large, light-filled and life-giving. Even in December's lengthening darkness, this seed of joyful hope grows within us. We are pregnant with it. In our waiting, we are enlarged. God is coming!"