Merry Christmas – and Happy Holidays too!

Well, all is calm and all is bright at the Beene’s again this Christmas afternoon. The pork for the tamales is in the crock pot, so I know there will be some excitement later when I teach my son how to roll them, but for the most part, we’re just relaxing. My husband and I bought a new mattress and box springs for our big present to one another and it was great to just crawl up and under the big new European style duvets for a nap after the breakfast crepes. We’ve played a board game, tried on clothes (everything fits – a Christmas miracle!), and eaten too many stocking stuffers.

This year I did my best to get into preparing for the season without letting the busy-ness take over. My husband’s mother passed away in June, and in mourning with him, I realized that I’ve been mourning my own parents for the past six years. That has meant distancing myself from investing too much into holiday preparations that made me sad. At the same time, it’s been easy to hide away from grief by running around doing lots of unnecessary things, instead of focusing on the ones that make me happiest.

All those years have been wonderful celebrations, but this year has been more peaceful and content. I find myself leaning into the Divine instead of running from grief. And I have celebrated all the “holy days” that are a part of the season, not just the endless barrage of are-you-ready-for-Christmas days that tend to make up the bulk of late November and December.

I was reading a Facebook post among some pastor friends about the wisdom of saying Merry Christmas. Now as a liturgical group, the argument wasn’t are you leaving Christ out of Christmas by saying Happy Holidays? We tend to be the group who think fighting over accepting someone’s greetings no matter what they celebrate is a probable sign that you’ve already left Christ far behind in your priorities.

But we do have our good-natured fun over he fact that until sundown yesterday, we were not in the Christmas season. We were celebrating Advent – a Christian time of preparation, not only for the annual celebration of the Christ’s birth, but also for Jesus’ coming again into the world. (See Wikipedia for more info if you’d like.)

So the pastors on Facebook were debating whether they should offer a pretentious Advent greeting or just give in and say “Merry Christmas” with the rest of secular America.  The comments were funny including my favorite option for a greeting: “A very ponderous Advent be upon you” with your best British accent.

I enjoyed the exchange particularly this year because I realized that whatever greeting I had used throughout the season, I had honored Advent well in my own preparations: mourning with those who grieved, celebrating with those in joy, sharing in the excitement, discouragement, and even the pretension of the season with a heart open to hearing the Divine in it all.  Now, of course, I didn’t do it perfectly, or always, but then, I guess recognizing that has been an important part of the season for me too.

But now we are officially in the Christmas season – and I suppose everyone on that Facebook post is content to wish the world a Merry Christmas for the next 12 days.  There are so many more holidays coming in the next two weeks that we can always keep up our Happy Holidays, but we must bid farewell for many months to our ponderous Advent greetings. I pray that while I move on to another season, I can keep the spirit of peace and calm that enveloped me in my preparation this year.  Merry Christmas to you – and Happy Holidays too!

What greetings do you like to use in these winter seasons? Do you observe Advent? If so, how? If not, do you have a way to integrate contemplation and spiritual preparation into busy holiday times? What words would you use to describe your holiday season this year? What would you like to do more or less next year?

As we look forward to 2019, consider whether a spiritual director might benefit your spiritual journey. Find out more at Openings: Let the Spirit In. Or make plans for your retreat or workshops now.

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