31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 28, 2021
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
What a weekend! All of that baking, cooking, hosting, and traveling for Thanksgiving followed by shopping, Christmas card writing, tree decorating, and perhaps more baking, cooking, hosting, and traveling.
There was a time when I liked to have all of my Christmas preparations done before Advent even began. My Christmas cards were addressed, sealed, and stamped. My Christmas gifts were wrapped, and my home decorated. I felt like it allowed me to really embrace the season of Advent. I didn’t want the busyness to keep me from preparing for the Christ child.
After reading Tish Harrison Warren’s liturgy of the ordinary: sacred practices in everyday life, I’m thinking differently about how I prepare for Christmas and the Christ child. In her book, Harrison Warren writes about how we often think that the life of faith is only lived in extraordinary moments, in extraordinary places, in extraordinary ways. As if we can only connect to God in quiet moments of reflection, in places designated by others as holy, and in ways that seem life transforming.
And, yet, as Tish Harrison writes:
“God made us to spend our days in rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us?” (Tish Harrison Warren, liturgy of the ordinary: sacred practices in everyday life, pg 22)
Harrison Warren goes on to share how brushing our teeth and making our beds and all of these little ordinary acts that we do every single day can connect us to God, and her words made me think – maybe all of the shopping and baking and gift wrapping and Christmas gatherings aren’t distractions from the Christ child, maybe they are Advent spiritual practices that prepare our hearts and our world for the Christ child.
Over these four weeks of Advent, the Church season of preparation for Christmas, we will be exploring how preparing our homes and lives for Christmas can actually prepare our hearts for the Christ child. Yes, decorating our homes, baking cookies, gathering with friends and family and wrapping presents can all be spiritual practices that help us prepare for Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
One of the very first things many of us do to prepare for Christmas is decorate our homes. Raise your hand, share in the comments, if you have already decorated the inside of your home for Christmas. The outside of your home?
Christmas decorating is often a festive activity. There is even a song for it, which no, is not in our hymnal or any hymnal I have ever used, and yet, of course ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly’ comes to mind when we think of Christmas decorating.
It’s a joyful song for a joyful activity. Even setting up the Christmas tree, which is truly a struggle in our household each and every year, is something I delight in doing because after we have figured out how the branches go together on our fake tree – or you have tromped all over the tree farm for just the right one and wrestled with it all the way home, after all of that fuss, then comes the moment to pull out treasured memories – to hang homemade ornaments and ones passed down from loved ones, to laugh at this one or tell the story of how you got that one.
I feel joyous as I hang our stockings and decorate our fireplace mantel, and I also feel connected to God because just as our Christian faith is shaped by lighting the Advent wreath week after week in worship, so too, is our faith shaped by the ways we decorate our homes for Christmas.
As we set out our nativity set – or sets in the case of a few of us in this church community, let it be a reminder to sing “O, Come all ye faithful” or “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. If you have already put yours out, create an Advent spiritual practice out of looking at or touching a shepherd, angel, magi or baby Jesus, and singing your favorite Christmas carol as a way to prepare your heart in these Advent days.
And as you light a candle or turn the Christmas lights on inside or outside of your home, hear the words of the gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5, NRSV)
I hope that as you hang a star on your Christmas tree or decorate with stars that you will think about your star gift and continue to ask how God is leading you with your Epiphany star gift. (If you are new to the FCC Bristol community and do not know about star gifts, contact me or hopefully someone will share online what star gifts are.)
Nativity sets, candles, lights, stars, angels, even Santa Claus decorations are reminders of God and the Christ child, because after all, Santa Claus was and is a saint, ever faithful to God and always reminding us through his role model of generosity to love God and love our neighbors.
In these Advent days of preparation and waiting, as you prepare your home, may you also prepare your heart to receive the Christ child. Through the stockings hung with care and the wreaths decorating your door, the Santas and ornaments, candles and nativity sets, may we be reminded over and over again what we are waiting for, who we are preparing for – the Messiah, the Christ, the Hope of the World, Emmanuel, God with us.
And as we wait and prepare for his coming, may the glory of the Lord be revealed through us and through all of these wonderful Christmas decorations, that all people shall see and know God’s glory, rejoicing and giving thanks for God’s hope, God’s peace, God’s love and joy coming into the world through our Savior, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.