I think I am beginning to understand why I love Thanksgiving, Advent, and Lent so much. I love intentionality, and I love seasons that encourage intentionality.
At Thanksgiving, we are urged to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and we cultivate gratitude through intentionality: We say “thank you” to God more frequently for the unnoticed delights that we frequently take for granted. We post on social media for the month of November one thing a day for which we are thankful.
But we miss the most obvious secret in the world: If we were to do this year-round, we would be richer people, with heightened awareness of our position of abundance.
We snap more pictures during the holidays because of traditions, because they mark the fleeting nature of time.
We grasp the transient nature of time, as chronos marches on and Kairos moments are all that we have, and we try to trap them in the tiny frames of our Digital SLRs or fancy smart phones. During Advent, we pull out the family Bible studies, tracking the Christmas story day-by-day until we celebrate the birth of our King on Christmas day.
We gather together more frequently, and in the sometimes mocking pain of tradition, we break and find healing in sacred ways during the months of December and November.
As we emerge into the new year, we come face-to-face with the fact that time slips through the space between our fingers no matter how tightly we grasp it, and we learn to count our days, seeking to make them count and choose to not get lost in meaningless distraction.
For those caught in destructive cycles, we come face-to-face with the fact that our lives are not at all our best possible lives, and we come to a crisis moment: Do we choose to enter into bitterness over unmet expectations, or do we choose to bow broken before the Lord of truth who offers healing to the meek and the mourning—the secret of Advent?
In the years of my consumption with disordered eating, addictive behaviors, depression, and anxiety, the last couple months of each year brought nothing more than the yawning chasm of dread and deep despair. As God has redeemed my life and ushered me out of the pit into the light of day over the past eight years, the 70 or so days of holidays and celebration have transformed into sacred spaces of redemption, supernatural discoveries, and deep gratitude and joy. The Lord joyfully restores what the locusts once ate, and all truly becomes grace under the colorful glow of our imperfectly delightful fake Christmas tree (that our kids completely decorated themselves this year!).
The truth is that we cannot buy our way into a joyful holiday season. We can’t tradition our way into the moments when the sacred collides with the secular and our hearts catch in our throats. We can’t create goose-bump moments of Kairos invading chronos on our own. Only God can do that, and in nearly 2020, my vision has sharpened to see the clear truth that grace comes in a surrendered life, a life given, and a life of brave steps out of our comfort zone in which we feel that we might be risking everything.
I am convinced that when the holidays are painful, bitter, and mocking, we can lean into the pain and discover an unexpected pathway to delight.
Let’s not shy away from the thick moments that blow in with seasons of intentionality: Those moments are portals to the power and breathtaking beauty of heaven. They open our hearts to breakthrough. Christmas magic isn’t a child’s fantasy. That’s why it’s so delightful to all ages.
It might not look like a red suit and sound like bells in the quiet of the midnight hour. It’s so much better: Because it’s real. Why would our souls long for it if they weren’t created for it? (Ask C S Lewis).
Let the old wineskins of ordinary time break wide open with the sacred, new wine of the Lord of the new covenant that physically broke through into the natural realm that first Christmas. Our magical ideas, though misdirected and misplaced, are birthed from our supernatural roots. We were created for dreams of pure delight, and the children have a front-row seat to the glory of Christmas because their eyes are open wide. May God open all of our eyes this sacred holiday season.