Raindrops on rooftops and polka dot mittens
Bright lights that flicker and Big Momma’s kitchen
Brown chorus angels whose robes look like wings
These are a few of my favorite things.
Buttermilk cornbread and crisp chicken drumsticks
Hotels with stairwells and greens that are handpicked
Wildflowers that spread in dry deserts I’ve seen
These are a few of my favorite things.
When depression bites, when oppression stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad . . .
I’m choosing to paint broad strokes of joy on the backdrop of a threatening gray Christmas.
Instead of lusting for more, I’m craving less. That’s where my joy is building. Seems like this world is spinning out of control, and when I’m not careful, I do the same—forgetting that I have been grafted into the “set apart people.”
Yet somehow I keep getting stuck on the “how” of Christmas. Generations before me seemed to carry the secret of more in their having less.
And where I’m from, even less “Advent.”
I’ve tried to keep my white and purple candles lit and my Jesse Tree full. Every year I promise to keep this discipline of “holy” in the rush of the season. You should have been there the night my kids got to eat three chocolates each from the Trader Joe’s Advent calendar because we were two weeks behind. Let’s just say it wasn’t a “Silent Night.”
I’ve always prided myself in taking the best of a person, a people, a poet, and infusing that “favorite thing” in some shape or form into my own life rhythm. I think it’s the result of being a Sociology/Anthropology major. I kinda function like a cultural mutt sometimes—displaying different characteristics of the places and cultures I’ve researched or admired. Unfortunately, painting Advent onto my spiritual canvas just ain’t mixing in, and I’ve decided it’s OK.
I was watching an Italian documentary the other day on the traditions of Christmas in Italy. I was amazed at how this culture brought Jesus down to dwell amongst their own. The Nativity scene is one of the most loved and enduring symbols of Christmas. It is believed that the creating of a Nativity scene originated in Italy by a villager named Giovanni Vellita. Giovanni was asked by St. Francis of Assisi to recreate the birth of Jesus. Before this created display St. Francis performed Mass, and there began a tradition.
In Italian villages, children go from house to house dressed as shepherds, playing pipes, singing and reciting Christmas poems. I loved how in some villages the responsibility of gift-giving is reversed. Little ones bring gifts to the elders, instead of adults scrambling to check off items from a too-long Christmas list.
The simplicity of the Italians’ celebration brought my own childhood Christmases back in to view. Sometimes we have to travel around the world a bit to discover that the best of what we have was always right at home.
I’m no less of a Jesus-follower if I don’t keep up with Advent. If my tree goes up a week before Christmas, instead of the day after Thanksgiving, I’m no less of a homemaker. The purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to meet us right where we are. He wants us to look to Him, not each other as Jello molds to replicate.
We have been given the simplest of gifts in exchange for the duty, expectation and shame we carry.
The little girl above found hope that Christmas in the transforming power of a God who saved her Daddy’s soul. She witnessed the power of a Savior who could break addictions, pay past-due light bills, and piece a struggling family back together again.
. . . looks like silver tinsel, Life Saver storybooks, Annie’s oatmeal cookies, a brand-new box of 100 count Crayolas. It is seen in the smiles and tears of the family we often take for granted and the prodigals who are brave enough to return home again and again and again.
. . . is what washes over you when you sing the words of sacred songs like Breath of Heaven, Silent Night, and O Holy Night. Peace is found in knowing that God sent His only son “Immanuel” to permanently “be with us” and “for us,” despite what we may feel or even see.
. . . is the deposit He left in you and me—that forever gift of unconditional love that keeps us each wrapped together, tied tight in the bow of truth that we are all His. Loved uniquely and with intention right where we are.
Advent, thank you for pointing me back to Jesus. His hope, joy, peace, and love are my favorite things.