This weekend I unpacked the last two boxes of Christmas decorations for our house. Some might find it shocking that I waited this long to put everything out. Well–maybe, but I never claim to do anything conventionally. Actually my method of gradual Christmas decorating is quite intentional. I never start before the 1st of December. After clearing and cleaning the remnants of Thanksgiving, I make sure that the house is good and “free” from any Fall decor. Then, after DEC. 1, I begin. I usually start with the nativity scene that I inherited from my family when I was a child. That’s it for that day. By the first Sunday in Advent, the Advent Wreath has assumed its place on our dining room table. Advent is, after all, meant to be a time of preparation. I embrace this concept as each box is unshelved, and its contents distributed throughout the house, on a separate day–often with several days in between. I like to linger over each decoration and think about where it would look best this year. I like to remember where I got it or who I got it from–especially if it came from a child.
Gradually, our house becomes transformed as the days go by and school gets closer to being finished for the year. As gifts begin to arrive and go under the tree, as Christmas Cards collect on the shelves, and as cookies, and treats are being exchanged, the music plays “Let Every Heart, Prepare Him Room.” It feels like we are indeed, in a mode of preparation.
Maybe it stems somewhat from my childhood. Our family never had a tree until Christmas Eve. Santa brought our tree. This was partly because my parents didn’t have much money, so they waited until Christmas Eve to get a tree–when they were sold for a dime, or free! But I remember how magical it was Christmas morning to walk into the family room and see the big sparkling tree with all of the presents, for the very first time. The idea that Christmas didn’t actually come until Christmas morning really sank in for me.
By the way, I pack up the boxes in the same manner. Liturgically, the season of Christmas actually lasts 12 days. (Hence, the song…) I spend a couple of weeks boxing everything up, gradually. Since our house hasn’t been fully decked out since mid-November, it doesn’t seem “wrong” to leave things up a while.
So…today is the 4th Sunday in Advent. Tonight at dinner, we will light the last candle outer candle on the wreath, and prepare for Christ to come. Our house is ready for Christmas. There’s been no hurry, no hustle and bustle. This week, in anticipation of Christ’s birthday, let our thoughts and hearts echo the ancient carol: “O, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”