This year, I’m going to keep three words in mind during Advent and Christmas: remembering, participating, and anticipating. Here’s why:
I’m going to set aside some time to remember Christmas seasons from my own past, and also set aside time to share those memories with my family. Even if my sons consider it cruel and unusual punishment. It’s important to remind each generation about the history that they are a part of. And I’ll encourage Janice, Richard, and Philip to share some of their memories of Christmas. Sharing memories is a good way to make them lasting memories.
I’m going to try to make sure that everyone in the family is able to truly participate in the Christmas season. Participating is more than just doing things. In fact, it will probably mean doing fewer things. If you try to do too many things, they all become a blur and you end up participating in very little. Participating means being here and now, without worrying about what’s next—without going on to the next thing before you’re able to appreciate what you’ve just done.
I’m going to try to structure the family schedule so that anticipation becomes possible. I remember when the kids where young, they would almost drive Janice and I crazy with their agony of waiting. But learning how to wait is an important part of growing up, and being able to wait is an important part of being a healthy adult. And we live in a society where waiting is almost considered evil. So I’m going to try to get those presents under the tree early (this will mean I’ll have to do some shopping before Christmas Eve this year). And I’m going to let a little bit of my inner child escape as I scrutinize any presents addressed to me under the tree. After all, that’s one of my best childhood memories of Christmas—spending time trying to figure out what was in those brightly wrapped presents, and anticipating the moment when I could rip the paper to shreds to reveal the contents.
Putting Christ back into Christmas
These ideas of remembering, participating, and anticipating are also important to a Christian understanding of the Christmas season. At Christmas we remember that there was a time in history when God had never walked and lived on this earth, that there was an actual point in history when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We remember that we are all a part of that history.
At Christmas we participate in the Kingdom of God that was made possible by the birth of a tiny baby 2000 years ago. The One who was born then remains with us here and now. What we celebrate is the birthday of the One. If we cannot participate in that celebration, all the other celebrations become less than meaningless.
And at Christmas we anticipate the promised time when Jesus will return and bring about God’s Kingdom in its fullness. We anticipate that day when Christ comes and “rips to shreds” all our pain and suffering, all the world’s misery and discord, and we get to live in a reality that far surpasses our imaginings.
Remembering. Participating. Anticipating. Make them a part of our Christmas season this year. And may your Christmas be blessed and joyful.