When it comes to Christmas, my refrain is always more, more, more.
I want to do far too many things, and then put tinsel on top of that. I want to make my house look like the collision of two Hobby Lobby semi-trucks, each filled to the brim with Christmas ornaments, and then I want to sit on my couch under a Christmas blanket and watch Christmas movies.
I want to drive around every night with peppermint hot cocoa filing my eyes with Christmas lights while listening to Christmas music. I want candles in every window and horrifyingly tacky sweaters and loads of Christmas cards and presents for everyone and a party with every kind of appetizer I can find on Pinterest.
Just writing all that out, alone, has made me extremely happy.
Here’s one Christmas gift, though, that I often forget about until I’m huddling under my Christmas blanket wondering how I can possibly get it all done: the gift of doing less.
So I know it’s only October, but if you’re a Christmas junkie like me then you might already be making plans. You might have Christmas gifts stashed away in your closet, waiting. You might be happily eyeing the trees that are already set-up at Lowe’s.
Or, maybe for you it’s Thanksgiving? Are you planning to make the best turkey yet this year, with ham and venison to go with it, and more fabulous side dishes than the dining room table can support, and at least three slices of pie per guest at the feast?
That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. I’m not here to dissuade you from celebrations that bring you joy, unless they include putting oysters in your dressing.
Before the holiday season heats up, though, it’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves what it is that we really want. It’s too early (I suppose…) for Christmas carols and Christmas cookies and Christmas parties, but it’s just the right time to resolve to prioritize simplicity.
Quakers are far from the only people who talk about simplicity, but it’s part of the core of our approach to Christianity.
Here’s Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” ONE thing. Not all the things, not a whole bunch of things, not even worship + a few other important things. ONE thing.
The word “simplicity” gets associated with being old-fashioned, or homespun, or not on-trend, and all of those things can be true of the simple life. Pursuing Christian simplicity, though, is really just about removing distractions; resolutely ditching second-best baubles in order to better grasp the treasure at the center.
As you gear up for the holiday season, I encourage you to set a few priorities.
Maybe that could be reading through and Advent devotional, or maybe you want to visit worship services at as many churches as possible, or maybe you have some friends with whom you can spend some intentional time in prayer.
Put Christ at the center of your Christmas celebration, not as a battle cry against some secular outside force but in order to see your own heart renewed.
See if that doesn’t prepare you for a happier New Year!
And of course, although it’s far too early: Merry Simple Christmas!
Julie Rudd is Pastor of Wilmington Friends Meeting and member of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association.