Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle_Denair Dispatch.
What are the ingredients for the good life at this early stage of Christmas time?
I dare say an important factor is learning to say “no.”
I want to say “no” to visiting when my family and I are exhausted and the kids have been too busy.
I want to say “no” when I feel the tug of endless advertisements promising more and more deals.
I want to say “no” when I feel tempted to be less than satisfied with the things we already own, with my many boxes of Christmas decorations.
I want to say “no” after I am full even though the sweets look so, so good.
With every no, there comes a yes.
I say “yes” to meeting the needs of my immediate family, the most important people in my life and the people who look to me as a stabilizing force.
I say “yes” to staying in control of my spending, of my money management and to shopping intentionally.
I say “yes” to continuing the gratitude celebrated during Thanksgiving, and let that gratitude for what we have, prompt me to be more generous.
I say “yes” to mindfully savoring the meal before me. If there is a great variety, I can choose to eat small portions.
I want to fully engage in the Advent season. Advent calendars are a way to count down the days. Advent candles are lit each Sunday, one after another until Christmas day arrives. This means saying no to some Christmas celebrating prior to the day of Christmas. Holding back a little now makes the twelve days of Christmas (which begin on Christmas day) a richer and fuller celebration.
Purple candles signify anticipation and penance (making sacrifices as a way of preparing our hearts or making up for wrongdoing). One rose-colored candle stands in place for the third week symbolizing Christmas joy, because it is a joyful, not a somber, anticipation.
I want to use this time to pause and reflect more than before, engage in some meditative reading and think about the big questions.
To get the freedom to do that, will require some effort.
It takes planning. I have anticipated our plans for December. The days will be busy, but not busier than fall was for our family of six.
To savor the season, I will unroll Christmas cheer week by week. The Advent wreath is on the table waiting to be lit. Then come lights, then outdoor décor and indoor greenery, then crafts and indoor decor, then during the last week, the Christmas tree, as a sort of crowning joy for a holiday that means so much to us. The gradual element communicates the preparation and importance of the day to my children.
I have made our gift lists and checked them twice. I hope to craft some small gift when we need a hostess gift or simple gift exchange. I hope to make our Christmas cards.
In all this doing, I want to hold fast to the idea of being: being in the moment, being with others. I will have to say “no” to feeling like the success or failure of our festivities depends on me. Christmas existed before me and will exist after me. It is something bigger than us that we choose to take part in.
I will say “yes” to the belief that being together as a family is a priceless gift. There are fewer of us around this year than last year. I want to find a way to cherish the memory of those who have passed. I want to put the technology away more often in order to be more present to those who are here.
And so, now that I have shared our Christmas plans, I want to invite you to take a moment to reflect for yourself. What does this time of year mean for you? How do you want to experience it? What matters most? What will you say “no” to in order to deepen your “yes”?
Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but just as the long nights and chilly air cause us spend more time inside, so also the season, with or without a manger scene or Santa hat, provide us an opportunity to consider the things inside our hearts.