We don’t have our Christmas Tree up yet. It has been musical chairs or trees for us. With Ganny’s death Christmas preparations have changed more than a bit. Oh, we’ll still barbeque a hog and gather at her house, but she would have already wanted Narcie, her official Tree Decorator, to have already put everything up. So… plans change. Without anyone at her house and fear of a fire if the tree isn’t watered consistently we’ve decided to switch some things up. Narcie and Mike get our tree with colored lights so Enoch and Evy can enjoy the myriad colors, and Ganny’s house gets Narcie’s tree with white lights and no need for watering. She and some of the students from Winthrop Wesley will go down this weekend to set it all up, and I’ll go to Lowe’s or Home Depot to find a tree for us. We’re the odd tree out, but that’s okay. Simple problem, simple solution. Decorating for Christmas is a joy not a burden. The same should be true for all of our Advent/Christmas preparations.
This reminds me of what former CBS News Anchor Dan Rather writes in his book, I Remember, about watching the Flying Valentis while growing up. He writes, “Walking past a vacant lot on our way to school early in the morning, we would come across the Flying Valentis practicing in their long tights and tank tops.” The Flying Valentis were a troupe of circus acrobats who traveled and performed throughout the United States.
“Although we were used to their art,” Rather recalls, “the Flying Valentis never ceased being the wonder of the neighborhood. Every morning it was like getting invited to a great show without having to buy a ticket. They did triple somersaults above their practice nets and caught each other by the forearms while swinging from the trapeze. We’d gasp when they missed connections and fell into their nets.”
From watching this family work out, Rather and his friends discovered that practice meant a lot of hard work. It might have looked like a lot of fun, but it was work. Rather writes, “From this hard-working family with its specialized brand of togetherness, we learned that even life in the limelight was no cakewalk. When we traipsed back from school in the afternoon the Valentis were still swinging away from their nets, and when they returned from a tour looking banged up and limping with limbs in casts we could see that a price had to be paid for fame.” Rather learned a valuable lesson from watching the Flying Valentis, “Their vicissitudes would have been good preparation for survival in the acrobatics of network television.”
Advent is our time of holiday preparation. It is a time when we look back, examining Israel’s expectation of the long-awaited Messiah. It is also a time to look forward to the day when Jesus will return. We do not know when that long anticipated event shall occur, but we try to stay prepared. Like flying a trapeze, Advent/Christmas season often looks like a lot of fun with all of the tinsel and lights. However, without the disciplines of reflection and preparation, this season can make us end up looking as battered as working without a net.
Advent season gives us the spiritual net to help us survive the hurriedness of Christmas. With great panic we can either say that there are only 4 Sundays until Christmas Eve and we’re not ready, or with the right amount of spiritual preparation we can say that we’re looking forward to it. With adequate reflection, we can celebrate this special season with all the wonder and poignancy that it deserves. Don’t miss the net!