The view outside is white. And more white. The temperature is hovering around zero degrees F. We do have hopes that it is going to warm up to the 20s today, but for now it feels good to be sipping coffee, still in my flannel pajamas, and contemplating a day off in which I'm going to do some baking.
It has been a strange kind of Christmas season. Not a bad one, all things considered. More about that in a future post --but just different.
Last year I think I was just enjoying the freedom that not being a pastor brought me during the holidays, but I realized this year just how much of my Christmas focus was formerly determined by things pastors do.
I have always thought of Christmas in two rather distinct ways. I mean, the shopping, cookies or other baking, even the pleasure of lights and snowy landscapes are not really connected to thoughts of Jesus Christ and his birth. That doesn't mean that can't be very enjoyable, but the other part of Christmas, the part where I spend time in contemplation of spiritual things is a different thing altogethe, and it seems difficult this year.
Other years it happened as part of preparing for the season. At church, the month before Christmas Day was devoted to themes related to Jesus' birth and the events around it. I always tried to make Advent services coordinated--liturgical church traditions are better at this than we Evangelical types--but I worked hard at making the music, scripture readings, other special things like a poem or worship dance or drama, blend with the sermon so that the whole service led us together in a particular direction.
A few years ago I wrote (with help from my daughter) a daily devotional booklet, "Christmas at the Oasis" which spanned the time from the beginning of Advent through the week after New Years. I posted those here as well. We had to be finished with the whole thing in plenty of time to get it to the printer and distributed for the first Sunday in Advent. It was a wonderful spiritual exercise. I don't know how meaningful it was for those in my congregation or others who received the booklet, but it was good for me to plan it, write it, and find the artwork that went with the devotion for the day!
I'm realizing that it is almost Christmas and I am missing the focus of time spent thinking, writing, planning and so on. I don't know what next year will bring, but I have decided I must be a lot more "on purpose" about planning my holidays to include some sort of spiritual discipline.
How about you? Is it a season of peace, joy, hope and love...or is it something else this year? Do you have any special habits or practices that help bring the important things into focus?