Decorations to put up, cookies to bake, presents to wrap, people coming over, gotta clean the bathroom. Yikes! I just wanted it to be a wonderful, peaceful, beautiful, delicious, aromatic, warm and connected, meaningful holiday.
I mean, I’ve only been studying up on how to have a simple Christmas for most of my adult life. I’ve even helped lead classes back in the ’90s on having a simpler holiday based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. There are no shortage of inspiring on-line how-tos. And of course there is Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. But all these resources are preaching to the choir as far as I’m concerned.
The challenge is reconciling my ideals with my desires. Hmm. And then there is the sad but true fact that homemade goodies and gifts require more time to create than getting out the credit card and ordering stuff online. So sometimes it seems to me that the natural, homemade, creative, low-cost aspect of creating a simple celebration gets conflicts with the peaceful, relaxed, connected, and deeply meaningful part of a simple holiday. Both aspects provide satisfaction, but I haven’t figured out how to resolve this contradiction. I haven’t figured out how to get to the FUN. I haven’t figured out how to get to the JOY.
Okay, let’s see if some of those resources can provide inspiration to help me reach the simple heart of Christmas that I long for.
In 1997 Bill McKibben wrote about a campaign the United Methodist Church of New York and Vermont started called “$100 Holidays.” Besides helping people to unplug from consumerism this practice helped participants reach for “..more joy. We felt cheated by the Christmases we were having – so rushed, so busy, so full of mercantile fantasy and catalog hype that we couldn’t relax and enjoy the season.” He continues, “At its truest, religion represents the one force in our society that can postulate some goal other than accumulation. In an I-dolatrous culture, religion can play a subversive role. Churches, mosques and synagogues almost alone among our institutions can say, ‘It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s your life; it’s learning that there’s some other center to the universe.'”
Or listen to what I wrote for a church service in 1996: “One way I’ve borrowed from my Jewish and pagan friends is the ancient way of ritual. In our family we have a ritual where early in Advent we set up the creche stable containing only the hay-filled manger and the oxen. Then Mary and Joseph and the donkey begin the journey to Bethlehem from somewhere in the kitchen and day by day, move along their way. Every morning the children look to find where they are. Finally on Christmas Eve Mary and Joseph arrive at the stable and the baby Jesus is put in the manger. Somehow this child-like practice helps me to feel that I too am journeying toward the heart of a wondrous mystery.”
Well, maybe it’s too late for me to reconcile all my contradictory urges this year. Next year I’ll try again. Meanwhile, I will leave you with “The Christmas Pledge” from Unplug the Christmas Machine, which I hope I’ll remember to use to guide me. Maybe you will too?
Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to
*Remember those people who truly need my gifts
*Express my love in more direct ways than gifts
*Examine my holiday activities in the light of my deepest values
*Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends
*Rededicate myself to spiritual growth.