Looking back on our childhood Christmases I think we can all agree that a huge part of the excitement was the anticipation. Counting down the days as the moment we could finally open our presents grew closer and closer (not the most selfless thing but we were kids okay).
Now we know Santa isn’t real (cue the flashback to the unpleasant moment you learned this), and often this time of season brings a lot more stress than excitement. Presents to buy and wrap, food to cook, people to entertain…I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of us breathe a sigh of relief when it’s all over.
This year I’ve been more determined to actually enjoy the season and get back a little bit of that hopeful anticipation I remember having when I was younger. This requires a combination of mindfulness (fully being in the present moment) and hope (aspiration to happiness).
In Christian faith we celebrate the few weeks before Christmas as a time of joyful waiting and preparation known as Advent. Each week has a different theme (faith, hope, joy and love) and there are various traditions we practice during this time. Often individuals have an Advent wreath in their homes, they might add a spiritual practice or give something up. In my case I added a morning devotion and gave up watching Netflix (*gasp*).
What I’ve learned this year as I made an effort to be more joyful during this time of waiting, is that this is a pretty good template to follow in our daily lives; not just around Christmas time.
I think a most of us spend a lot of time waiting; for the job, the promotion, for the relationship, for the ‘next step’, for the breakthrough, the pregnancy, the acceptance letter, for the microwave timer to go off…it’s a long list.
I know I definitely have spent a lot of time waiting for one thing or another and often I resented this. I wanted to have it now, or I wanted to not want it.
Waiting was too painful; too frustrating; too uncertain.
However as I went through the different Advent rituals and fun activities, I realized how much joy it’s possible to have now, while we wait.
That doesn’t mean forgetting or giving up on the various dreams or goals we have. It means pursuing them with excitement and doing what we can today to make them happen; while also finding joy in where we are right this moment.
While I am excited about Christmas day, I’ve so enjoyed baking Christmas cookies, buying presents, wrapping them, having quiet time in the mornings, reading instead of browsing through Netflix, working on a Nativity puzzle…I was determined to do these things in the best way possible; and that required most of my attention, so I wasn’t focused on the fact that it wasn’t Christmas day yet. I also didn’t focus too much on the possibility that Christmas wouldn’t come? The question, the uncertainty that what we really want isn’t going to come to happen. I was hopeful, responding to the aspiration for happiness placed deep within us.
I realize that there are big things we want, that haven’t happened yet, and that we don’t have the certainty that will happen. But I think we can learn from Christmas time that it pays off not only to enjoy the day it comes, but also the wait. To learn from, grow from and love the time we have now. It’s a time of preparation for whatever comes next, a time to be thankful for, to cherish.
I completely can relate with any frustration, anger, even desperation that comes with not knowing, with waiting; but this season shows us how much we have to gain by seeing this as a time just as valuable as the day we get the job/promotion/relationship/acceptance letter.
I’m really excited for Christmas day, I’m also excited to enjoy the time baking, playing games, preparing for the day I’ve been so looking forward to.
I hope everyone has a lovely holiday!