I think there are a number of reasons for this. My family traditions have changed. Family members have moved away, others have died, many have had kids, some live in other countries. It's hard to get everyone together and when it happens, it's typically not actually on Christmas. Getting the family together was always my favorite part anyway.
Recently it seems the holidays have been coming around earlier. I am not ok with Christmas commercials in September. I am not ok with Christmas carols on radio stations 24-7 starting on the first of November. I am not ok with the skipping over of Thanksgiving or the crazy advertisements businesses use to encourage me to spend more money and buy more things. I think part of this stems from travelling to third world countries, particularly the trip I took to Ethiopia. There are times I walk into a grocery store completely overwhelmed with the sheer bounty surrounding me. How much abundance we have. How little we recognize it.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the decorations, the songs, the lights, the joyful spirit that is sometimes palpable. Love Actually, The Santa Clause, and The Polar Express can frequently be found in my DVD player. I still give and receive gifts. But the overall experience is not the same. I miss the anticipation that happened when I was younger.
Sitting with my middle school students in youth group this past Sunday, we began talking about the upcoming advent season. We asked the students what traditions they had with their families. Some talked of advent calendars, others of wreaths. One soft spoken student talked about how excited she is the morning of Christmas. She smiled as she recounted how she typically gets up way before the sun, going into her older sister's room first and then her parents room, proclaiming Christmas and asking to get up to open presents, only to be told by both parties to return to bed. After going back to bed, she is up every half hour, barely able to contain herself until she is given the ok to venture into the house.
I miss the anticipation of presents, the excitement for Christmas morning, and yet I wonder too, why can't we be this excited about the true reason for Christmas? When did we lose Jesus in this holiday? Most years, I believe that humanity steps up to the plate, and we can see people showering others with joy and love if we know where to look. I want everyday, and particularly around Christmas, to feel that same anticipation as my students. But I want it to be directed to the One who deserves it most. How does one equate the excitement of presents to the importance of Jesus without seeming "preachy"?
For me, this season I am focusing my attention on reviving that child-like anticipation. I am paying particular attention to my students, watching them for cues as the excitement for the holidays and a break from school builds. I want to share in this season with them, to be present. I want to change my mindset a bit and try to experience the world through their eyes.
I hope they can sense my expectation at all that is to come.