I had an idea. I felt inspired. I got excited. I made a list and headed to the store with a mission: find the perfect paper plates, napkins, and placemats for Thanksgiving. Soft oranges, a hint of blue and gold. Traditional and a little modern. Perfect for our big family gathering. It was November 1st, and I was proud of myself for getting a head start on Turkey Day details. Until I entered the store and was bombarded by red and green. Wait a second! Where is all the orange?

And that’s when I felt the story shift. Not only was I not getting a head start on Thanksgiving, I was already behind on Christmas. I hadn’t given any thought to making that list and checking it twice. What was I doing looking for orange when all around me, the signs and sales screamed that I needed to be in Christmas mode RIGHT NOW?! I put my little red basket back in its corral and returned to my car. I had the wrong list in my purse. I was excited about the wrong holiday. Shame on me.

The story that the store told me was that I needed to get in the game, get hustlin’ and bustlin’ to buy more and do better. And that’s just one store. My email is filling up with best-gifts-for-everyone-on-your-list lists. Monthly magazines and newsletters have one million ideas for all the coolest things to make and bake and take. Every ad shows the perfection I should be striving to attain. The story being told is a Christmas story- that holly and jolly, merry and bright, require just these few thousand purchases and activities.

Now, I had all kinds of emotions in the hours and days after that. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I regained my excitement for Thanksgiving. I found the inspired plates, napkins, and placemats. And one morning, cup of coffee in hand, I sat in my chair and held up in my mind’s eye all things Christmas. The things I love. The things I feel obligated to do. The old traditions and the possibilities to make new ones. Like purging a closet between seasons, I tried to pull out every item and activity and scene and project and consider it carefully-

I have just two hands- what will I hold onto?

I have this budget- what will I invest in?

I have only 24 hours in a day- what will I spend time on?

These are the people in my life- what will bring them delight and honor?

I leaned back in my chair, feet tucked up under me, and closed my eyes. I let myself get lost in my favorite Christmas memories. The scent of cinnamon and vanilla and pine. The soft glow of candles and Christmas lights. The minor chords of O Come O Come Emmanuel. Mugs of coffee and tea and hot cocoa next to a fire or a puzzle or a family board game. Cozy flannels and stuffed stockings. All the people. Family. Friends. Their delighted eyes and smiling faces. And Advent. Those four weeks of slow reflection on the coming of Jesus Christ. The deliberate pause in all of it to remember that God has come and will come. And the story shifted again. It isn’t a Christmas story that I long for. It is the Christmas story. Ancient and true. Told and retold. Better than any other.

A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices…

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…

“Mary, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…”

Wonderful Counselor

Mighty God

Everlasting Father

Prince of Peace

On those living in the land of deep darkness…

                                    The land of deep division

                                                The land of staunch individualism

                                                            The land of rampant consumerism

                                                                        The land of loneliness and shame and brokenness

…a Light has dawned.

This year, I want to look for and celebrate and tell the story of His light. With every list, every purchase, every activity, every tradition, every party, every gathering, I want to find and reveal the Christmas story. Hope. Joy. Peace. Love. Light. Ancient and true. Told and retold. Better than any other.

The Story Continues

What beautiful words. Adorable, really. But how does one go about doing this? Hope, joy, peace, love, and light are all very lovely ideas, but is that all they are? Who wrote this stuff, anyway? These questions and more can be found in part 2 here!