Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get Ready for the Holidays

This week is Halloween. So it starts, the Fall Rush to the end of the year. Next up is Thanksgiving, and then the mad dash to Christmas. I don't really look forward to it. But, I don't have to live by that calendar. We are so aware of Time. Every where we look we are reminded of the time. It is on the bottom of our computers and on the face of our phones. It stares at us from the dashboard of our cars. Someone has called it the Tyranny of Time. Days fly by, we say. Or, Time drags if we don't have enough to do or are in pain. Some of us live weekend to weekend and look forward to the next time we get "off island". Which is often at holiday time. For Holidays, we live by the world's calendar. Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc, and we let the expectations of the holiday seasons set our clocks. We go through the motions like we are punching a time clock for a job we don't really like.

There is an alternative. Some Christians since the early days of the church have set their clocks differently. The calendar of the Church Year follows the life of Christ. Conforming our days to that calendar was seen as a way to help us conform our lives to Christ. So, it is not Halloween this week; it is All Saints Day. Thanksgiving is every day. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the first Sunday of Advent which is our preparation time for Christmas. The last Sunday of November is the first Sunday of the new year, not January 2. According to the Church Calendar, we have a whole month to wait for the Birth of Jesus. That is what we are doing in December instead of frantically preparing for the secular celebration of Christmas which drains our budgets as well as our energies. Then, it is Epiphany, which is followed by Lent which leads us to the celebration of the great saving event of the death and resurrection of Jesus ( no, there is no time for an easter bunny). After Easter, there is Pentecost and the Pentecost season which runs for six months and is a time for going deeper into the Bible's teachings about who we are supposed to be, and what we are supposed to do, as the church.

Am I saying we should abandon the secular holidays. No, not completely. Halloween can be a fun party time with costumes and games and goodies. My brother in law, who is a pastor, loves to play around with Halloween dressing up in outrageous costumes and "scaring" kids who come to his house for treats. Thanksgiving can be a low key holiday spent with friends and family; a time to be grateful for God's gifts of people in our lives. Christmas can be a time to focus on the Gifts God has given to us in Christ and a time to give gifts to others, mostly to those who need them. We can think about what these celebrations mean and who we are taking our cues from for their meaning. Does walking into Walmart start us thinking about what we have to do, what we have to buy to fulfill Walmart's expectation of what the season means. Or do we control how we spend the holiday, and what we spend our time and money on?

This year may be time for a change so you have time for a change. Spend Halloween night at the party at church enjoying the costumed children at their games. Play games and laugh with them. Get involved in the cakewalk or leading a game. Charlaine was always there painting faces until she moved. Any face painters in the area? Have a simple meal for Thanksgiving so you don't spend all week getting ready for it. Invite over some people who don't have family to gather with this time of year. Share your lives. Play some games. Think about how you can make some changes to get on God's Time this Christmas instead of running, and spending to stay on the world's Christmas timetable. Make church attendance and scripture reading a priority. Practice letting some things go.... no Christmas letter this year... or less decorating ... less buying. How can time be used as a gift from God? This year the church is hosting Ten Thousand Villages in early December. At this bazaar third world craftspersons sell their wares. It provides a market so these people can feed their families. Buy your gifts from places like this. The first Friday after Christmas is a day of prayer at the church. Wouldn't it be nice to enjoy more time for prayer and reading during the holidays? No reason why you cannot, is there. Wouldn't it be nice to have more money to give away during the holidays? No reason why you cannot, is there?

Where is God in your plans this holiday season? A good resource for shaping our lives according to the life of Christ as we follow the Church Calendar is Robert Webber's Ancient Future Time.

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