Every Sunday morning for quite a few weeks now Josh's finger has led my eyes to our church bulletin. "20th Sunday after Pentecost" he will say, his mouth twisted into a smile. Then 21st, then 22nd, and suddenly, last week 25th. He is teasing, the long count of...well, nothing...after Pentecost tickles his sense of humor.
Next week the bulletin will read "Last Sunday before Advent" and then the long 6 months of Common Time will be over as the steady march of the liturgical year commences; Advent turning to Christmas, turning to Epiphany, then the shortest of breaks before Lent, followed by Easter, followed by Pentecost. A familiar rhythm set on repeat for all time.
But I will admit it- I haven't historically been all that fond of Christmas. In fact some years I've been downright cranky about it, last year most especially perhaps- with my hatred of things growing to previously unreached limits.
But I think this year I am having a bit of a softening of the heart.
It began one morning when I came downstairs to find Zeke (he let me sleep in with Mal, sweet sweet boy) playing with his beloved dinosaurs.
These plastic dinos are his most prized possession at this point (well, maybe besides Baby Burt, and his blankie). And the thing is, they aren't just things, and cheap plastic things at that. They are prized. They are treasured. He has named them- every one; and he cares for them as if they were people.
And don't we all have things we love?
One of my favorite traditions of the entire year is lovingly unwrapping and setting out the Nutcracker Army as soon as we are back from Thanksgiving. There are few better examples of useless excess then my nutcrackers. Two full boxes in the basement that are used for exactly 1 month every year. But they are my treasures.
I'm afraid that in seeking out the holy and the valid in this holiday for myself and for my children I have overlooked the value in the secular and even commercial aspects of it. I failed to understand that the one can serve the other, if you only allow it to.
Gift-giving teaches generosity, after all. It teaches thankfulness. It gives a sense of blessedness.
There will always be that knot in my stomach as the season rolls closer- as I look at my Christmas list, and then at my checkbook, and realize that the difference between the two is one not to be met. The decisions of how much for who, and who will be left out (because there are always those left out), and what I can make and where I will find the time to make it will always be there.
And I will always be a devoted donater of my kid's outgrown things, a sworn sifter of toys, and never one to buy more then a few gifts. But I think I'm going to smile, this time around, as they open those presents. And I think I will pause, and consider, as I go thru those old toys. Because sometimes things are important. And some traditions have meaning whether I fully understand or not.