By now, the race is on. The Thanksgiving leftovers are cold, the Black Friday shoppers have come home with bags and bargains in tow, UPS is dropping off the Cyber Monday purchases, and the festivities have officially begun. For the next month, advertisements will dominate the airwaves, catalogs will clutter our mailboxes, and coupons will fill our email inboxes. We’ll eat our way from party to party, fill our ears with the music of the season, and satiate our senses with lights and decorations galore.
For most of us, our Christmas celebrations are markedly different from the quiet, humble origins of its beginning, there in a smelly stable in the sleepy little town of Bethlehem. We fill our December with traditions and experiences that, quite frankly, can sometimes become overwhelming. Now that the Advent season is upon us, how can we celebrate it in a way that is meaningful and life-giving rather than exhausting and energy-draining?
A few years ago around this time, a co-worker passed along a beautiful paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love” chapter of Paul’s epistle. May this version of that sacred text, written by an unknown author, help you to center your holiday celebrations on the Love and Peace that is at the heart of this season:
“If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.”
Thanks be to God for the gift of Love this Advent season.
Julie Long is associate director of Baptist Women in Ministry.