Contributed by December Blogger of the Month, Rebekah Lope
I love Christmas, and have for as far back as I can remember. I think it’s always been the one thing I can look forward to every year – no matter what might be going on, Christmas is coming, or nearly there, and if I can just feel the magic of it for a moment, it’s enough.
But Christmas magic should be more than just a moment, it should permeate the entire season, and that takes, well, practice. And it’s what little rituals and traditions are for – to drag our attention back to the season we are in.
Advent is the first reminder of the onset of Christmas. To me, Advent is more than just buying a little calendar filled with candy to count down the days. That can be fun, but it doesn’t contain anywhere near the significance of a traditional Advent. It’s about changing my mindset, making Christmas (and, most importantly, Christ) the center of my focus for that time.
A specific tradition that has formed for me, besides the Advent wreath, is reading a few selections from a book I picked up several years ago. It is called Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. I bought it on a whim. I knew I was looking for some sort of Christmas devotional-type book, but it ended up being far more than I expected. It’s not really a devotional, but collected sermons, readings, and essays from influential Church figures ranging from Saint Augustine, to Martin Luther, to Francis Schaeffer, just for a sampling. If you want perspectives of Christmas from throughout history, this book is fascinating.
After Advent, the next big thing that makes Christmas, well, Christmas, is the decorations.
I always joke that I’m going to decorate for Christmas on Halloween, because in my pre-NaNoWriMo years, I would always put up the decorations on Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I cook and write every Thanksgiving weekend, so decorations don’t go up until December.
I don’t have nearly the amount of Christmas decorations I want, either, but the two essential things are a Christmas tree, and a Nativity set. My husband and I have acquired a nice collection of ornaments over the last seven years, but finding a Nativity set I love has been a bit more difficult. Evidently Biblically/historically/culturally accurate figurines and sets made of good quality materials is too much to ask.
So, for now, I have settled with a figurine that contains Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. It is always centrally placed in the living room.
And, of course, a focal point of the atmosphere of Christmas are the smells of Christmas baking. I don’t have many specific Christmas recipes I bake, but I just tend to bake more at Christmas time. There’s something comforting about a warm kitchen, and the smell of spices wafting through the house.
Some of that baking turns into gifts. Ah, gifts. Possibly one of the most exciting and stressful aspects of Christmas. I start gift brainstorming/saving/shopping probably about mid-summer. There’s always one side of the family that leaves me stumped until the last minute, though. But as long as you remember to wrap gifts as you acquire them, rather than waiting until the night before you need to gift them, then it becomes significantly less stressful.
Let’s not forget Christmas lights, either! Though it’s been years since I was able to wander through Rhema’s light display, or drive leisurely through neighborhoods looking for light displays, it always cheers me to see lights on a houses I might be passing by. There’s just something heart-warming about the simple displays, without the synchronized music and dancing lights. They just seem more… magical. Like frozen moments of time when all is bright, merry, and right with the world.
A new month means a new blogger of the month, and this month we are pleased to feature blogger, writer, wife, reader and urban farmer, Rebekah Loper. We can’t wait to learn more about Rebekah and what makes her tick.