For 2013 I joined the growing online meme and picked a one-word theme for the year: Habits. I wanted to focus on “getting back on my game” after having a baby last November, and actually having a single focus when I got the bug for “turning over a fresh leaf” throughout the year was helpful (I think it happened when I had two nights in a row with 6 hours of consecutive sleep, but then someone would start waking up again and life would get hazy and fuzzy and raggedy again).
So, I was thinking about how I’d go about picking a theme for this year. Last year’s just seemed obvious. I wanted to recover routines that had been lost. I had several ideas for 2014, but then I realized the theme that was already planned into my year. I’ll be hostessing the book club for Desiring the Kingdom which is about liturgies, I’ll be following along as a Protestant contingent of Everyday Snapshot’s Living the Liturgy theme, and I’ve been thinking about how I need to be more intentional about making this whole “Convivial Home” name apply to our real home. And the “liturgies” theme is really just a continuation of the previous “habits” theme, as will become apparent when we begin the book club.
So, 2014 will see a lot here in this space about liturgies, habits of a happy home, and working out how to make the church year our orienting principle in a Protestant and gospel-centered way. None of these things are things I am actually currently good at. I’ll be writing about them because doing so helps me straighten out my own thinking and helps me keep these things in mind as I live my life with my family in our home.
So, let’s start with Advent. I’ve already written a bit about our advent plans, and yesterday I quoted from a book that helped me think through this topic this year. Now it’s time for some photos and reflections.
Making a Pretty Home
I think decorating for Christmas is a home liturgy worth pursuing. It does take time. It takes thought. It takes collecting and storing and moving around stuff. It’d be easy to say I was pursuing a “simple” Christmas by not doing all this – less stuff, less clutter, less doing – but the truth is that such a resolve would be laziness rather than simplicity for me.
Adding all these extra touches, all the extra color, all the extra stuff for Christmas is part of what makes the season special. I remember as a kid getting up early in Decembers and laying under the Christmas tree and just staring at the lights in the branches. I loved decorating the tree, I loved reading by the tree, I wanted to sleep in the same room as the tree (and sometimes when the relatives arrived, I did!). The stuff that makes the house special during this time is a large part of what makes memories and makes the child feel a sense of wonder.
So, as the Hidden Art book club reminded us earlier this year, decorating the home is a worthwhile endeavor, even if it’s not glamorous or Pinterest-worthy.
Making Happy Traditions
I know there are streams of the church that celebrate Advent as a penitential season, a season not of bright and cheery Christmas but of remembering the dark waiting the world experienced before Messiah came and fulfilled all things. I don’t necessarily want to discourage anyone from participating in their tradition’s traditions, but since my tradition does not do that, should I pursue that route in our home?
I have decided no, I should not. We do not need to have a season where we pretend Christ has not come. After all, every Sunday we celebrate not only that Christ has come, but that He is Risen. Sunday should set the tone for all subsequent days of the week, every day of the year.
So, Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas for sure: a time to practice those cookie recipes, to practice those carols, to practice and slowly build up to the grand finale: Christmas Day. During Advent our Jesse Tree practice and family devotions center on teaching how all the Old Testament was building up to Christ, but always ending with Christ, which means joy.
Making Fun Memories
The Wilsons, in their parenting books, explain a concept called the “reign of terror,” their strategy for getting back on track after things had slid too far. It dawned on me last week that Advent is evolving into my own little “reign of joy,” and that I need to embrace that and develop it further.
I am not a fun mom. I am not a crafty mom. I am a “Let’s get things taken care of” mom, and I don’t think that that translates readily into fond memories.
So Advent is where I push back against my own proclivities. We make sugar cookies and decorate them. We do some crafty things. We ease up on the plans. We play more music more often. We light candles.
The entire season is one wherein I am reminded that “convivial” means “festive,” and “festive” means fun. It is a season where I remember to lighten up: myself and not just the tree.
Comfort and joy. Comfort and joy. Christ gives us comfort and joy, so comfort and joy should characterize our homes. What better time to focus in on their development than the season wherein we are singing their tidings?