As I wandered through the aisles of holiday decorations, I imagined a vision of our finely decorated home. I walked past harvest pumpkins and strings of lights, turkey figurines and decorated tablecloths. It was easy to believe that getting ready had much to do with buying and little to do with preparing. Standing in that store, I almost believed that lie. Almost.
Because, while the images we have in our heads--these Pinterest pretties that show perfectly poised families in beautiful places--may entice us, it all falls flat if the holidays we prepare for are nothing more than opportunities for showing off tchotchkes and eating rich food. We miss the mark when we prepare for the decorations but not for the devotions that connect us to the truth.
Yes, it is still fall. It feels too soon to think about the holidays to come, but they are coming nonetheless. If we take the time today to think it through, maybe Thanksgiving and Christmas can have a value and depth that we don’t want to miss.
Imagine the importance of reveling in gratitude for gifts received at a time when our culture demands the accumulation of more. Can we teach our children, and ourselves, to notice the ways God pours into our lives instead of wallowing in discontent? As Thanksgiving comes, what a wonder it would be if we spent a month focusing on blessings and ways to bless others, as well.
And while Christmas feels far away, what if we planned for it now? Not the budgeting and baking, but the connecting to Christ as we prepare to celebrate His birth. Can we ready ourselves to step into that story, setting aside our familiarity with the verses to hear it all anew? Can we help our children come quietly to the stable and peek inside to see the One who loves them best?
Yes, fall has just begun. But these upcoming seasons are important. We can be distracted by cultural convictions or we can focus on using these days and weeks to draw closer to Christ. We can use the holidays to focus on gratitude and prepare for the wonder of Jesus’ birth. And we can help our children to do the same. Let it begin today with a prayer and plan. "Lord, show me ways to draw my family to you in this holiday season."
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra