Assemble: Word 3, Advent 1

One of the best parts of Christmas at my house is getting out the nativity sets.When I was a newlywed--with no children--I decided that I was going to be a collector of international nativities. My husband and I are both kind of minimalists in the home decor department. We don't do knick knacks, we think less is more, and anything that has to be dusted is probably more trouble than it's worth. However, I felt like nativity sets were the perfect thing for me to start gathering. They would … [Read more...]

Shift: 5 Ways to a Sane December

Advent 1, Word #2 -- shift. I'm trying this thing again, where I blog every (week)day during Advent. The past few years I haven't been able to do it, because I was completely overwhelmed with other things. Moving/transition things, kid things, stressful things, churchy things, you name it. All the things. I always try to be intentional about not letting December get away from me, but lately, I've failed miserably. This year, I might just pull it off.This year, we all need a pause. We n … [Read more...]

Anticipate: Advent 1, Word 1

I spend a lot of my time and energy anticipating future needs. Mine, and those of other people.I anticipate the needs of my kids: That one is starting to whine and look kind of puny--better fix a snack before she has a meltdown. His jeans are getting too short, again; better order some, because he will outgrow them in his sleep, AGAIN. They should go to bed now or we will have a difficult morning. Make sure everybody pees now, or somebody will have to go behind a tree when we get to the pa … [Read more...]

Meanwhile, Instead, Anyway: Christmas, the Great Conjunction

My high school English teacher--the one who showed me the wonders of eliminating 'to-be' verbs in favor of stronger action words, and the one who taught me to read for layers of meaning beyond the surface of the page--changed my life in the way teachers do sometimes. Just a few small nudges here and there, and the world of words opened to me in a whole new way. I've run into her a few times since high school, and she sent me a lovely flower arrangement on the day of my ordination. She was 'that' … [Read more...]

Deep in the Root

Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.This winter image, offered up by poet Theodore Roethke, embodies the spirit of Advent. Beneath the frozen-over ground (unless you live in the desert, or at the beach, in which case we don’t want to hear about it--just pretend it’s frozen, ok?) …under all the ice and snow; attached to that shriveled brown stem left over from summer’s abundance; way below all that we can see, the flower keeps the light. Something is happening in the darkness. In i … [Read more...]

Let it Go: What Church Can and Can’t Be at Christmas

Here's what I did NOT need to see: that article from "Christianity Today" about how many Americans will go to church for Christmas.The answer? Everybody. ALL THE PEOPLE. They will come from the city and country, from hill and holler; the believing and the skeptical, and happy and the heartbroken, the long-lost and the never-known... It's Christmas and THEY ARE COMING. Prepare the overflow seating...These publications hit us all year long with the depressing 'mainline decline' … [Read more...]

Hope Trumps Fear: Advent Thoughts on the GOP Debate

"Look Daddy! Every time Trump gets 'booed,' an angel gets his wings!"...is the thought I kept having during the debate. Maybe that scene came to mind because Trump IRL reminds me of the movie Mr. Potter. That cinematic caricature of evil; obtuse, antiquated, "a warped, frustrated old man." Pretty spot on.More to the point-- every time Trump gets "booed," another candidate gets his wings. Last night just confirmed my suspicion that all the others must be paying him to say these appa … [Read more...]

This Magic Window

Most years, I’m a Christmas minimalist. My kids get 3 or 4 gifts each—some of which are books, some “boring” things they needed anyway. I refrain from planning lots of festive family outings, opting instead to nest in and avoid the rushing, shopping madness out there in the suburbs. We do our church things, we put up a tree, we bake stuff for the neighbors. It is simple and good.So why is it that, this year, I cannot stop shopping for toys? And have thrown myself into the ‘daily surprise’ fre … [Read more...]

Come Darkness, Come Light

I'm going to have to call the police on my neighbors.The liturgical police, that is.Their house is covered with Christmas lights. That's fine. I love Christmas lights! Also, on their porch, they have a giant, hand-painted wooden sign. (When I say 'giant,' I mean huge. I mean Santa could see this thing from space). And it says "JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON." Yes, the all caps seem a little aggressive to me, too. But the sign alone is not my gripe, exactly.What I'm liturgical … [Read more...]