So here we are, and Christmas is only four days away. I find myself at that point… the same point at which I find myself every year when it’s only a few days before Christmas… and I’m not ready. I’m not talking about the shopping (though there is still some of that to be done). I’m talking about being emotionally and spiritually ready for Christmas.
This is the blessing of Advent, of course. If you do it right, it helps you prepare for Christmas. But to be honest, I have not yet learned to “keep Advent in my heart.” I’m working on that, but for it to work you really have to think about it early and be intentional about it – which means you need to “prepare the way of the Lord” in your heart and mind – and this is the part that’s hard to do. Oh, I suppose I could blame it on the consumerism and commercialization, and the fact that they start playing “holiday” songs in the mall the day after Halloween. This actually has the opposite effect – it makes me feel like the holidays are coming too quickly, and I want to put it all out of my mind. But while that is annoying, it would be a cop-out to say that’s the reason I’m not ready for Christmas. I have to be honest and take responsibility for this – it’s my fault (my most grievous fault, for all you fellow Catholics).
The problem is, I haven’t learned to slow down. When it comes to working, I’ve realized I’m like a blender with only two settings: Off, and Frappe. When I’m working, I have to keep going full speed ahead, to the point where I feel guilty if I take a break. But if it’s vacation time and it’s actually written on my calendar that I’m not working (yes, that’s really what it takes), then I can take some time off without feeling that twinge of work-ethic guilt. I try to practice what I preach (and write), so, true to the Spiritual Blueprint methodology, I will be taking some time off this week and next. But it’s like a switch. I work until I stop.
I think it would be better, and I could be more prepared to celebrate Christmas, if I could learn to slow down gradually, rather than slam on the brakes three days before Christmas, only to step on the gas again on January 3rd. It would be nice to make the transition from working to not working more gradual. And the same goes for ramping up to get back to work. But maybe that’s a luxury many people can’t afford. After all, most people take a certain number of vacation days, and the other week days are work days. It’s hard to think in terms of a gradual transition. Not to mention the fact that we all want to accomplish a certain amount before the break, so we’re not punished by starting the new year behind schedule. Add to that the stress of wondering if you’re spending too much on gifts, and that’s a pretty sour smoothie right before the big day.
One thing I do that helps me prepare for Christmas is that I use all my favorite Christmas movies as a kind of cinematic Advent calendar – watching them one by one as Christmas approaches. That way I can be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. So to get ready, let’s all remember the true meaning of Christmas… The true meaning of Christmas is when Frank Cross realizes that helping people is more important than making money (Scrooged). It’s when Clark W. Griswald realizes that spending time with the people you love is more important than giving them gifts (Christmas Vacation). It’s when George Bailey’s friends all step up and help him out of a jam (It’s a Wonderful Life). It’s when Holly McClane realizes that it’s more important to keep the family together than pursue a career (Die Hard). Last but certainly not least, it’s when Linus recites the verses about the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke. It’s when I realize these things all over again that my heart grows three sizes, and I’m finally ready for Christmas.
Here’s a little Christmas and Hanukkah gift – a song I wrote called Miracle of Light, which celebrates both holidays.
Happy Hanukkah, and Merry Christmas!