Monday, December 19, 2016

Settling for a Little Togetherness at Christmas

I've backed off of most of my holiday insistences in favor of something more profound.

What more can be said of Christmas that has not already been said, written, sung, drawn, or dramatized? Nothing, really. And yet I keep trying simply because it inspires and possesses me so. As I see it, there will always be rich angles and new perspectives and cultural combinations that somehow bring the ancient stories and traditions into intriguing--if not new--light. This is why I keep writing of Advent and Christmas.

Year by year, I try to pay attention to the way I anticipate Christmas and experience its traditions. I note that my observance of Advent and Christmas and my perspective on them keeps evolving, even if subtly and slowly. 

Some things about the holiday that I once held passionately—even self-righteously—have faded in importance to me. For instance, I'm not as much a stickler for trying to convert people to observe Advent. Once convinced that if folks only knew about Advent-keeping--its rich roots and spiritual promise--and had practical tools with which to observe it, they would. I've also tried to get folks to practice/observe the Twelve Days of Christmas tradition. I've pretty much failed on both fronts.  For whatever reason, most churches I know and most people I know--including my own family--don’t really care much for the full practice of Advent, even if they dutifully observe it. Though I grieve this a bit, I've let it go.

Most people I know, more or less just join in the predominant anticipations and preparations for Christmas that are typical of mainstream American culture.  For better or worse, American Christmas seems to defy any specific tradition or order.  What I sometimes call kulture krismas is a diverse, eclectic, inconsistent, and conflicting mix of themes and practices and meanings that more or less get at the heart of Christmas in one way or another.  However it is approached or practiced, most of us usually “get it” sometime between the 1st and 31st of December. 

While I still think “we’re missing so much” and “we’re watering down meanings” and “this is too secular,” these days my level of Christmas holiday satisfaction seems to be determined less by appropriateness and more by togetherness.  So we miss lots of opportunities to express and experience the depth of this season; what matters more right now, at least to me, is being together—belonging, being present to and with and for one another.

While I'm not sure either of these family traditions will continue, there are a couple of  activities our tribe seems to be engaging in repeatedly these days.  One is attending the city's Homeless Memorial Service on the first day of winter each year. At least part of our immediate and extended family go to Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle at 11 am on Winter Solstice to join with homeless advocates to memorialize all who died in Indianapolis due to their homelessness during the year. It’s somber, but also clarifying and challenging. I suppose this practice as much as anything else brings Christmas into focus for us individually and together. Whatever else happens afterward, that is something of a conscience marker.

We’ve also gotten into the habit of going to a movie together on Christmas night. After all the gatherings are over and the presents are unwrapped, we pick out a movie to see together and take it in.  Sometimes the movies are poor, but we share the experience and have fun talking about it afterwards--sometimes for years. None of us will ever forget seeing the movie “Meet the Fockers” one Christmas night some years ago. Bad movie. Stupid movie. Inappropriate movie for kiddos. But we have the most fun laughing about that experience every year now.

Don't get me wrong, our family has layers of family traditions. But I think we've turned a corner from keeping tradition for tradition's sake.  I'm learning that when insistent traditions unravel or lose their meaning, go for togetherness. Just maybe out of the richness of a valued  and intentional presence to one another, something new and wonderful--even inspiring or transformational--might begin.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your words. Togetherness sounds wonderful!


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