I had the privilege to meet with some friends this week to discuss the book ‘Advent Conspiracy’. The book describes ways that the writers have found to make Christmas feel more meaningful. Instead of getting caught up in the trap and the pressure of consumerism, we should use this month, they say, in the lead up to Christmas, trying to worship and love more fully, and trying to spend less on our own circle of family and friends but instead giving more to those who really need it. The book is crammed with examples of people who have made their own presents, who have given generously to charity and who have looked out for people in need in their own communities.
It is an inspiring and convincing book (though, I must confess, the thought of making my own presents fills me with a bit of dread). I think it is what we all want. Meaning. Even those of us who are determined to go all out for a Christmas with all the trimmings. What we might not agree on is how to get there.
But do I really think that less is always more? Even with kids? As we were talking about the book, we were sharing some of our favourite childhood Christmas presents. I remembered the year that my Grandpa made us a log cabin doll’s house, just like Little House on the Prairie. But after my friends left, I started to remember lots of homemade gifts: a life-sized cloth doll with orange yarn hair, a box of dressing-up clothes, a heart shaped, crocheted cushion embellished with a ‘K’, some doll’s beds made out of cotton spools.
Now, I know it was a very long time ago, but I remember really liking those gifts.
Maybe we have more power than we realise to create our own ‘Christmas culture’ but as someone said last night, it would be easier to do together. The default position is backed by a mighty advertising and cultural force. To do something different won’t be easy, but a meaningful Christmas is what we really want, right?
So, thank you, friends, who by your example make it easier for me to stand firm. Your stories of lighting advent candles in dark kitchens, of looking for ways to welcome those who have nowhere to go, of making amazing creations out of old tights, and of the ways that you are trying to listen to God every day this month have given me a lot of Christmas hope.
The Northumbria community suggests printing out this prayer and placing in front of our own nativity scenes at home. It’s one thing I’m going to do to bring more meaning this Christmas.
I open the stable door;
I kneel before the infant;
I worship with the shepherds;
I adore the Christ child.
I give my love with Mary and Joseph;
I wonder at the ‘Word made flesh’.
I am aware of the love of God;
I sing glory with the angels;
I offer my gifts with the wise men.
I receive the living Lord;
I hold Him in my hands;
I go on my way rejoicing,
Glorifying and praising God.