It’s that time of year again: as I write this, it’s exactly one month until Christmas. Which means that over the course of the next four weeks, I have some important decisions to make. How much do I spend? What can I buy for the man in my life, who (as usual) has no idea what he wants? How do we make sure we see all the people we need to visit over the festive period? Oh, and how do I make sure that the real meaning of Christmas doesn’t get buried beneath a mountain of tinsel and mushy sprouts?
I’m trying not to go overboard with the decorations…
In the schools I visit (as a music teacher) we’ve been gearing up for Christmas since early October. I’ve already played through Jingle Bells more times than I care to think about. Conversations with other staff revolve around end-of-term performances, and whether the third violins are up to joining in with O Little Town. (Answer: Not if you insist on playing it in E flat.)
Modern life is so frantic that we often lose sight of the stuff that really matters. The relentless march of consumerism means that we are awash with alternatives in every situation. Going out for a coffee with a friend used to be a simple operation. These days, I have to choose from cappuccino, latte, Americano and so on. Picking large, medium or small ought to be straightforward, except that they’re all given fancy-sounding names just to cause further confusion. Full-cream or skinny? Take-out or sit-in? We are bombarded with choices wherever we go, so that the smallest decision can cause huge turmoil, and the more important things get pushed to one side. And in the run-up to Christmas, these options expand exponentially.
Who knew ordering coffee could be so complicated?
Joshua had wise words for the Israelite people as they took possession of the Promised Land. “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,” he challenged them, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24: 15, NIV.) The Israelites – not renowned for their good decisions – were eager to reassure him that they, too, would follow God.
I’m seeking to understand how I can apply these words to my own life this Advent. It’s easy to say that I’ll make God my priority, but what does that look like in reality? How do I ensure that I choose to serve him rather than consumerism? What do I need to do differently so that Jesus is my main focus and not an afterthought? My prayer is that each day, God will help me to make good choices so that my Christmas preparations are centred on Christ.