For decades, centuries, eons and eras, the religious folk have tried to formulate holiness. Once a man walked by a bush lit with a glow; I’m surprised that a religious edict didn’t post that we must bow and inspect all evergreens lest we miss God. It’s probably just human nature to try to repeat that which has provided meaningful, growth-filled and happy experiences.
Enter “the holidays.”
While for many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. My husband nearly turns into an elf on December 1st (or, more recently, the Friday after the holiday before Christmas, known by most as Thanksgiving). And for all the stockings hung and lights bright and scents of clove-filled oranges, I’m not going to say I dislike the holidays.
But I think we’re missing the point.
This isn’t a Santa vs. Jesus rambling. It’s not even an anti-consumerism, why’s-it-all-about-the-gifts argument (though I could offer plenty of all of the above). When we miss the point, I mean that we’ve forgotten what it means to be Holy, the root of “holidays” (holy-days in Latin, I’m told**).
To be holy is to be set apart. To be for something different, special. But you know what is not special? Waiting in line. Laying awake considering all the cookie options for the swap this year. Yelling at your spouse because he forgot the cream cheese and THE DISH REQUIRES CREAM CHEESE, WHAT WILL I TAKE TO THE PARTY NOW? (In all honesty, this one hasn’t happened in this house, but I’m sure you can imagine in your mind what it would look like if it did). Stressing about the “perfect gift” for the one who has everything and then spewing in the car about how ungrateful s/he was when they opened the package. We put our kids through sugar-filled, sleepless, chaotic days and ourselves through sleepless nights. And in what hopes?
We approach the season as if it’s something out of the ordinary, but yet we forget what really makes it set apart. Just because the season somehow mandates that cookies be baked, that doesn’t mean a holy moment is owed by the act of getting out the powdered sugar. December is not the Holy Moment Vending machine in which we go through the motions of traditions and reap a can of Special Memory. But if we continue to Clark Griswold-ify the season year after year, that’s the mentality we’ll begin to grow.
Holiness doesn’t happen because you go through the motions. It happens because you create space, you set aside – in terms of time and energy. You block off an area and say, “No. THIS here, this is special.” Holy days don’t happen when you cram more in; they appear when you clear more out.
I’m all about taking time and energy to make the celebration of Incarnation special. I love making cookies and crafts and visiting family and exchanging presents (and this year the giving has been even better
). I want to clear out other things so that these may happen. But I refuse to participate only to cross them off my Holidays To Do list. I will not allow the Ghost of Christmas Perfect to fool me into believe I’m not doing it “right” or “enough” and that therefore my family will be deprived of the Christmas Memories that Could’ve Been.
Holiness doesn’t come without effort, but it’s also not earned. Neither are holy days. I’ll put the elbow grease into preparing for a special season, but I also won’t formulate the 25th and fool myself into thinking that something will be special because I did everything right. It will be special because I was mentally and spiritually and physically present to enjoy it with those I love.
**Bonus: the “Xmas” abbreviation is for Chi, or Christ. If you’re trying to keep score on the anti-Jesus sentiment battle, that’s another point for the Pro-Jesus.