I heard the first Christmas carol on November l4.  I remember being 1) confused and startled – Is that “Silent Night”?  Why in the world is “Silent Night” playing on the radio? – then 2) resentful – What in the world are they thinking?!  It’s only November l4th! – and then resigned; after all, hadn’t the stores already been decorated for Christmas for two weeks?  Why should I be surprised by a little premature carol-playing?

     As they say, Christmas comes earlier every year.  I confess, I’ve grown weary of the whole event.  By that, I don’t just mean the rampant consumerism, the endless messages that suggest that we adults must give, give, give to prove our love and devotion, and the endless messages pumped out to our children that their job is to ask, ask, ask for more.  (The number of items on my youngest son’s Christmas list is fast approaching thirty.)  I’ve grown weary as well of the anti-consumerism messages.  The simplicity messages.  The “real meaning” of Christmas messages that have become so clichéd as to be meaningless themselves.

     By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that this article is supposed to be about … simplicity at Christmas.   Yet, whenever I think about Christmas, what comes to mind is a big to-do list – and backgrounding that list is an inventory that plays in my mind regardless of the season: 5 graduate school classes, 2 jobs, 2 small children, 2 aging parents – and somewhere in there is my poor spouse.   There is no way to simplify this formula, especially at Christmas.

     We like to reduce the advent and nativity story to a tale of sentimental simplicity.  But was it?  Think about Mary: according to Luke, twice in her pregnancy she made two long and arduous and perhaps dangerous journeys, first to see her kinswoman Elizabeth, and then to Bethlehem, with Joseph.  She was pregnant and young and unmarried.  She had been told that she was going to bear the son of God, of all things.  None of this could have been “simple.”  But what I love about Mary is that, despite what must have been overwhelming and frightening and terribly uncertain circumstances – she showed up.  She believed.  But she didn’t believe unthinkingly – she pondered these things in her heart.

     I cannot bring simplicity into my world, for as is true for most of us, it is a busy, complex, often overwhelming and uncertain and sometimes frightening place. I can’t make Christmas “simple.”  But I can show up.  I can believe the Good News.  I can ponder in my heart the love I have for my family  – and for a baby boy whose coming into the world changed everything, forever.  I can know the joy I receive from this is real, as my life – as all our lives – spiral toward return and completion in the Messiah.      

Karen Richardson Dunn writes for Morvian Roots and Wings,  even though she is a a wife and mother,  a full-time student at Wake Forest Divinity School, and serves at Fairview Moravian Church as a worship intern.

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