I’m considering changing my greeting this year.
I need a constant reminder that the real challenge of this season is not celebrating one holiday well, but two.
The default Christmas is not the original but the unavoidable. Bolstered by billions of dollars in marketing and a soundtrack of indistinguishable holiday tunes, it arrives before we’ve even made a dent in our kids’ Halloween candy.
It is intense and although it should be carefully considered, I’m not one to think this Christmas should be maligned. For all its grandiosities, it is still a season where people think about their neighbors, listen to their kids, gather with family, and buy themselves the good creamer. They should, by all means, make it merry.
The other Christmas is subtle, still, and a stark contrast.
The other Christmas is avoidable, hard to market, but entirely necessary.
It has come to assume only the space inside a manger, and not even a real manger.
It is snug in a replica manger that fits on top of the piano.
But it’s this Christmas that gives us what we need, even if it isn’t always what we want.
The celebration of Advent is a celebration of waiting.
In it, we are invited to remember the generations who waited for the manger to be full, even before they knew that was what they needed. And we make that Christmas merry by recognizing that we, too, are people in waiting, people in need.
The more I work with clients in counseling, the more I realize that what we make of our waiting determines what we make of our lives.
We are constantly waiting. We wait for the storm clouds to part, for our relationships to improve, for a new job opportunity, for a loved one to come back to us. We wait for the news to finally be good again, for the medication to start working, for a painful season to end, for another one to begin. We wait to see if anyone notices, if anyone cares, or if anyone can really change.
Whether we want to or not.
It is this other Christmas that offers us the opportunity to see what it could look like to wait well, to wait faithfully, even to wait merrily.
Miriam-Webster defines ‘merry’ as ‘cheerful and lively’. Although those two words are rarely associated with waiting, how different would our days, weeks, and years be if we learned to wait like that?
What if we made waiting an active verb and a cheerful activity. Instead of putting life on hold until circumstances change, what if we made that activity merry by dreaming of all the ways that the ‘not yet’ is changing us?
Although waiting seems to limit our options, we can still be lively in it by pursuing health, connecting with our circle of support, and learning from all the things that rise to the surface of our hearts during times like that.
2018 has been a season of transition and - as a result - of waiting for me. More than any other Christmas season, I can see the profound value in slowing down to draw nearer to the One who knows what I need and loves to offer it to me patiently, as I grow more ready to receive it.
This year my hope is that, even in the hustle and humbug of the holiday season, you are able to do the same.
Merry Christmases, everyone!