It’s Christmas at Walgreens, apparently. I walked in looking for one item and found myself staring at the aisles covered in tinsel and Christmas lights.
I have a love/hate relationship with early Christmas—that is, anything Christmas coming out before Thanksgiving. On one hand, I think we in America spend way too much money and too much time on an over-commercialized, sensationalized shopping season. On the other hand, I may or may not have already listened to some classical Christmas music on Pandora in my office.
As a pastor, I feel that I have to get Christmas when I can get it. If I wait until Advent to start preparing, I have no time. I am rushed with the busy-ness of church activities—the greening of the church, the lighting of the Advent candles, the Christmas bazaars and the special services all the way up to Christmas Eve. Then it’s Christmas Day, and it’s over. I know, I know—technically Christmas lasts twelve days, but our American culture doesn’t know that. If we’re lucky it lasts until New Year’s but the music stations have changed over by December 26th.
The last few years, my attitudes on Christmas have changed. There are two separate Christmas celebrations: one in the church, that begins in Advent and lasts through Epiphany celebrating the waiting, the incarnation, and the revelation of Christ to the world. The second is this overtly consumer-driven holiday about presents and crazy decorating and overeating.
But there is a third option for me, that I didn’t even realize I could choose as a Christian minister. It’s the season of “Peace on Earth.” This idea not only that we ought to do good things for one another and give to charity, but this season of when you light candles, drink hot chocolate by the fire, and do nothing else, but maybe watch snow fall if you live in a place that has snow. Peace not only to brothers and sisters in the world, but peace for me. Peace in me. Peace on earth and peace within me.
Peace where I can listen to Silent Night played softly on the classical station and not worry about burning my hand as I pass the candle. Peace where I can rest and not be run ragged. Peace where I can, if I choose to, contemplate the incarnation or take a nap in the darkness of winter. Peace where I can remember I am just as human as anyone else, and it is ok to be a little excited on Christmas morning.
So I will continue to speak out against the consumption of Christmas. I will continue to advocate year-round acts of goodwill and awareness of the poor and hungry. I will continue to preach on the incarnation and the “Reason for the Season” in the church. I will continue to be disgruntled a bit when I see Christmas for sale in the early fall and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. But I also will close the office door, sit quietly in my chair, and hum “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” even if the MLB playoffs are still on TV. I’m finding my Peace on Earth.